Photographing denim can be quite the challenge, even for professionals and skilled amateurs. To help all you denim lovers out there getting the best shots of your beloved jeans we have put together this how-to guide on denim photography. Setting up guidelines on how to take better pictures of denim is not quite as easy as one might think, so we asked one of regulars, professional photographer Mikkel H. Pedersen to tell us how he usually approaches the task of taking realistic but compelling pictures. We strongly urge you to refer to the guidelines listed below when you send in material for publication on Denimhunters.
1) First of all, your choice of camera does not matter much as most recent cameras (approx. less than 3 years in the market) will do the job with flying colours. With new cameras, and especially improved editions of existing ones, entering the market at lightning speed it’s easy to lose your breath and focus on obsolescence, but don’t fall into this trap, tomorrows news is probably not the invention of the wheel.
A good place to start is Canon’s PowerShot S-series, like the S100, which easily lets you control aperture (blurry edges/sharp centre focus) and shutter speed (how much light you let into the sensor), and it fits into your back pocket.
If you feel you have moved beyond compact cameras and want to be able to change lenses, Canon’s EOS 600D will do the job for you without ripping apart your wallet.
Do yourself a favour and buy the EF 50mm f/1.8 lens (or similar) while you’re at it – it lets you into another world of aperture possibilities.
2) What’s much more important is the lightning conditions. The most important factor for success denim photography is that you shoot in plenty of light; daylight often gives the best results if you don’t have access to a photo studio with softboxes. Use the check list below when you take your jeans outside.
- Take the jeans out in daylight and lay them out flat on a uniform, neutral background such as concrete, tiles, sand or even wood.
- Avoid sharp low sun settings and shady areas. Slightly misty weather gives a perfect light for outdoor photography.
- Remove belt, chains, key rings, etc. unless they have a direct function for your story.
- Let the jeans face the sun; the waistband should point towards the source of light, which gives the natural visual impression that the jeans are ‘hanging’ the right way.
- Stand on a chair, ladder or similar to take the overall pictures from directly above. You can shoot from angles with close-ups.
- Remember close-ups of details such as buttons, pockets, selvage edges, patches, rivets, and repairs.
- Shoot plenty of pictures and choose the best ones.
- Edit the best ones to get the most natural colour of the denim.
3) The third step is editing. There are plenty of editing programs out there, but Lightroom is a good place to start if you don’t feel ready for Photoshop yet. We advice you to avoid iPhoto. Your goal should be to get the most natural and realistic captions of the colours rather than completely exaggerated postcard-like colours. You get the most editing opportunities if you shoot in RAW, but JPEG works fine too. Leather labels are usually a good indicator for adjustments, if it looks too yellow or too blue something is wrong. Once you’ve edited the picture of the leather label compare it to the colours of the other pictures to match it. Here’s how you do it:
Adjust for exposure, white balance and highlights, and add an appropriate amount of contrast and clarity. To avoid the electric blue colour denim sometimes gets after the above mentioned editing you can turn down saturation a little.
You can also add a little post-crop vignetting effect to give the denim more focus, but for God’s sake don’t overdo it.
Export and compress the pictures to JPEG in minimum 640 pixels width and 100% quality. If you can’t get the editing right, send over the unedited ones and we’ll do it for you. In this case you shouldn’t compress anything.
4) Whether you edit the pictures yourself and let us do it, zip the pictures and send them to [email protected]. If you can’t fit the zipped file into an e-mail WeTransfer or Dropbox provide user-friendly ways to send large files. Write a few words about your denim including how long you have been wearing it, when you first washed it (if it’s ever washed), how many times you’ve washed it, and preferably some kind of special memory you have of wearing the denim.
Guide: Mikkel H. Petersen and Thomas Bojer.