Ask Dana – photo locations, camera, and the mess next to my pictures

Time again for Ask Dana.
This is a new series I’ve started on the blog. You’ll find a link to other questions in the tab at the top of the blog.

I definitely don’t have all the answers (or even 2 percent of them) but I’ll do my best. If you have a question you’d like to ask me–anything? Just shoot me an email at:
danawillard (at) gmail (dot) com

Last time we answered these two questions:
* How do I cut a straight line on fabric?
* How much of Lucy’s wardrobe is handmade by you?

Today we’re tackling 3 photography related ones…
The Goodnight Moon photoshoot might be my favorite that you’ve done. I’m really curious as to where you dragged that furniture to use the blue background. Wherever it was, worth it.
– Jessica

Thank you Jessica! It was actually one of my favorites to set-up and shoot. And in all honesty…..I love sewing, but I might love taking photos of my sewing creations even more–it seems like the bigger “art” to me. As I drive around town, my eyes are always scanning the area, the buildings, the brush, the road for interesting photo locations and unique walls. I keep a piece of paper and pen in my car to quickly jot down a location so I can remember it months later. And sometimes a cool location actually spawns the idea for a sewing project.
When it comes to taking indoor photos vs. outdoors….I enjoy both, with natural lighting being the most important part. Natural lighting means light that comes from natural sources, such as the sun–both indirectly (through a window, in the shade of a tree, from overcast clouds) and directly from the sun itself (overhead mid-day, in the morning or afternoon with shadows, or late in the day silhouetting an object from behind)–rather than a light inside your house or the flash on your camera. I think I’ve used my flash two times since I bought my camera.

Being outside provides plenty of natural lighting and tons of interesting locations. Bright backgrounds and solid-colored walls are some of my favorite photo backdrops–they give a nice color compliment to clothing. And when creating a story for your sewing creations, sometimes I drag props and furniture along too.

For the Goodnight Moon pics I wanted either a green or dark blue wall to match the illustrations inside the book. Our house had neither. So I found an old building on the side of the road that seemed fairly unoccupied and unused. Personally I don’t think it’s a big deal to take a few quick photos in front of someone’s building….but when placing props on the building, it’s probably a good idea to ask permission first. I could never find anyone to ask, however, so I hope no one minded as we dragged Owen’s bed, table, chair, the kids, and Casey–all in his truck–over there one evening to set up our little scene. They’re good sports for going along with it (there were candy rewards at the end). We went from this:
to this:
It took about an hour from beginning to end to set it up, shoot, watch the kids interact, etc.

When it comes to “directing” my kids in photos, I sometimes ask them to stand a certain way or look at me with a certain expression. But it seems that the best photos come when I let them interact naturally with each other or with the props and space around them….Or when I ask them to do something that makes them feel playful and like themselves: jump and down, dance, say something, or make a funny face. I never know what I’m going to get out of the photo shoot but that’s part of the excitement as well.


What camera and lens do you use for most of your photography? And what type of editing software do you use?

In a nutshell….


* Canon 18-55 mm zoom KIT lens (good standard lens with general range)
* Canon 75-300 mm telephoto KIT lens (great depth of field)
* Tamron AF 18-270mm lens (amazing zoom range; it’s replaced my need for the two lens above)
* Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens (everyone should own this. It’s inexpensive and amazing!)

I use it for all my photos. It’s simple to use, with enough settings for my needs but not overwhelming like Photoshop can seem.

But for all the real info, here’s a detailed post I did last year about it:


Seriously, please tell me that you send a huge plow through your home to scoot all the toys and clutter up against one, unseen wall before you take your pictures or else I’m going to hate you forever šŸ™‚

– Ash

YES! I do have a plow at my house!–my feet, two arms, tricks of a camera lens, and two little helpers that I can bribe from time to time to push tables and chairs around the house for me, to make the photo just right. Many of you have commented on how “clean” my house looks in photos. And I guess my answer to that is two-fold.

In general our house doesn’t have a lot of “clutter”. My style is more minimalist so there isn’t a ton of stuff everywhere (especially since we lived in a 2-bedroom apartment before this and had to keep it at a minimum). Of course I have areas of the house that need attention and though my husband might disagree, I do clean closets out from time to time and try to give away or throw out the things we’re really not using. I can’t stand clutter and piles. And watching Hoarders puts me over the edge.
No, my house is not clean all the time. Ask anyone who stops by. We’re just like all of you, with shoes on the floor, baskets of laundry on my bed that are actually clean but have gone a week without folding and are almost empty again, dishes in the sink, floors with dried-milk cheerios here and there. It’s not perfect.

So when it comes to taking photos, I definitely move any of the “mess” outside of the camera’s view.
For example…
Here are the same images from my Halloween decor post last week…but with the items that were off to the side–my purse, shoes, toys, stuff to return to friends, etc.
on the other side of the room–jammies and undies from getting dressed this morning, yarn from my blanket project, items that need to be put away, etc.
But who wants to see that?
When you’re showing your best work and trying to take a nice image, make your home or sewing project the star of the show by cleaning up the junk around it (or…by sending the plow through and hiding it all in the closet. That’s the most efficient method).

Have a great Monday!

If you have more questions, shoot me an email at:
danawillard (at) gmail (dot) com

  1. 1) TESSA

    oh MY gOSH! This is the best website ever! i love the tutorials! i can’t wait to see whats next! thank you for all the info! i am so inspired by the tutorials that i went to the local thrift store yesterday everything is washed now off to sew!

  2. 2) Leigh

    This is one of THE best sewing websites I have ever come across and I LOVE your design aesthetic! Having just sent my last one off to college, and finally having space and time to myself, I am just getting back into sewing and you have completely inspired me. Keep up the good work!

  3. 3) Katrina Symonds

    I had been looking for ages for a really simple way of making clothes for my granddaughter when I came across your website. You certainly make it seem easy, your videos are great. I have just found a piece of material in my stash (orange polka dot) and will make a skirt right now! Please make lots more videos.

  4. 4) Sandi

    i love to watch your tutorials and read your blog. i can spend hours going through your site. i have been sewing for about 50 years but am always amazed at the little tips i pick up from you. some times the simple answers are the best ones.


    Hi Dana,
    First of all I must say I just simply love your ideas and moreover you are a stunning creative person. The way you make things easy and prettier its simply the best part I love in your stuffs.
    Well here I am writing this to ask you to kindly show some stuffs related to woolen hand made sweaters or any particular stylish designs as my mum really loves weaving sweaters but with grandma’s ideas; So please update some videos with new styles to put on teenagers as well as kids.
    Love the way you put on everything really colorful and adorable for all ages.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. 6) Judy

    At 70 years old I finally installed my first zipper…all thanks to your video.
    I gave up trying years ago. But you made it easy and my finished product gets an A+. Thank you!
    I am waiting for my new BabyLock (it is in route) and I need to be able to install zippers for many in-the-hoop projects. I am oh so ready!
    Thank you again.

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