Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Five years ago I wrote a post explaining how I photograph my models. Looking back on it now makes me cringe.

So dark 😦

It’s kind of amusing to read. My photos have changed a lot in five years so I think it’s time to revisit that old post.

First off, what hasn’t changed:
My cameras. I use a Canon Rebel T1i for 99% of my photos. (I’m considering upgrading to a newer model though :3) I rarely use my Powershot for models nowadays. Lately I’ve been using an iPhone for quick IG photos too.
I’ve improved with learning how my camera works, and I was shooting in RAW for better control of the image until my computer decided it no longer likes opening RAW files. (whhhhyyyyy???)

My basic backdrop is still a white piece of poster board, and Photoshop is still my go-to for editing, but I’m using the full version over Elements now.

The biggest change I’ve made is lighting.

I have struggled SO MUCH with lighting. For the longest time I was trying to make due with natural light or my desk lamp, neither of which were giving me very good results.

I ended up finding an Ottlite on clearance and decided to give it a try to see if it would help. It did! For a couple years this was my photo setup:

Combining the two lights, my camera’s settings and some minor tweaks in Photoshop helped me finally start getting photos I was happy with.

But it has it’s downsides. It’s not portable, the light can be very harsh, and my desk simply isn’t big enough for any other type of set up. I’ve had more interest in setting up arena and “outdoor” scenes, and natural lighting worked ok… but only if I could catch it at the right hour and Photoshop everything afterward.

Other problems included space for the setup, shiny backdrops, and having to rely too much on Photoshop.

I wish I still had the “before.” This photo is VERY edited and I don’t like it when I have to do that

This Enterprise Props shoot is what pushed me over the edge. The final images are ok, but they all had to be salvaged with heavy editing. My scene setup with the natural lighting is in an extremely tight space, and is too large for any table, so everything had to be set up on the floor. Taking photos required me to lay on my side (literally pressed against a wall, lol) and awkwardly prop the camera up. The whole thing was just frustrating and painful.

I had considered buying a light tent of some sort, as I know a lot of hobbyists use those for model photography. The problem I have with those is the size. Sure they would be perfect for collection photos or props or tack, but my backdrops are big, and finding a big enough tent (or making one) seemed like another hassle.

Instead, I did some searching on photography lighting, and ended up purchasing this set of softboxes on Amazon.

These lights changed EVERYTHING and made model photography so much easier for me. They’re huge, but they can be completely folded up for easy storage. I can adjust the angle and the height, keeping them low to the ground, or up higher for something on a table.

Here is a basic, white backdrop setup with the lights:

This room has a gas fireplace and YES the backdrop is taped to the front BUT it’s completely shut off. I’m not that stupid XD

And the settings I used for those curious:

I vary all the settings whenever I take pictures. What might work for one horse won’t with another, so it’s nice to have several different photos to go through.

Here’s the final image. All I did was resize it, add a subtle unsharp mask and my watermark.

I love being able to get brightly lit photos at any time of day, at any spot in the room, at any time of the year now.

That was really hard to do before. And because the light comes from above, reflective backdrops aren’t a big issue anymore either.

I do struggle with over and under exposure. A more neutral backdrop (such as grey or tan) would be better for photographing horses, but I’ve been using bright white for so long that it wouldn’t feel right to change it now. :/

I’m still learning. But upgrading my lights was an extremely good choice for me, as I use them often for blog and sales photos. Setting up scenes isn’t as frustrating as it used to be, and I’ve been enjoying it so much more.

I still have to set up and tear everything down whenever I take photos, which is annoying, but at least it doesn’t take over my desk anymore. Someday I’d like to have my own studio/office space with a spot for a more permanent photo setup. We’ll see what happens in another five years!

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To finish the edges of a blanket or saddle pad, I use bias binding. This can be purchased pre-made at any fabric or craft store, in varying widths, folds and colors:

While it’s convenient to purchase, pre-made bias has it’s downsides. It can be expensive, especially if you’re using a lot of it. You are also limited when it comes to colors. I am a bit obsessive about things matching, and store bought bias simply doesn’t come in the same exact colors as my fabrics. Patterned bias exists, but again, you’re limited to what’s available.

So I learned how to make bias tape myself.

There are dozens of better tutorials online explaining how to do this but since I make my bias specifically for model horse tack, I thought I would share my process with you.

Here are the tools I use:

  • Fabric of choice
  • Large cutting mat – you’ll need one if you’re using a rotary blade
  • Rotary blade (sharp scissors work too but this thing is SO much faster and smoother!)
  • Ruler (mine is huge but a smaller one can work too)
  • Bias tape maker – these come in different widths and styles. I’ve used this one the most.

You’ll also need an iron and ironing board.

To put it simply, bias tape is made by cutting a diagonal strip from your fabric. Here’s a square piece of fabric to illustrate.

If you tug on both corners of your fabric, you’re going to feel it stretch better than if you tug on the top and bottom. This is where you’ll cut your strips from. The stretch helps the fabric go around curved edges easier.

Stretchy!

No stretch 😦

Start by taking one corner of your fabric, then fold it diagonally to meet the other side. You want a 45° angle here. Unless your fabric is a perfect square, it’s not going to fold in half exactly.

Pardon the carpet. I cut everything on the floor because I don’t have a table big enough to work on XD

Iron this fold down, then open up the piece again.

Cut along the fold line – you’ll have two fabric triangles to work with now. I tend to use whichever is larger first, as I can get a longer piece of tape from it.

Next, I’ll measure 1 inch from the edge and slice off a strip.

These strips are ready for sewing! I always cut more than what I need.

My method for sewing on bias has changed, so I no longer fold it. I was using double fold bias for nearly everything for a few years, and that was made with a metal bias tape maker. These come in different widths and are super handy for quickly making folded bias.

I get the 1 inch measurement from using this tool as it was required for the double fold. (each size is different- they do come with instructions!) To make the tape, feed one end through and anchor it down. (I pin it to the ironing board) Slide the tool along the strip, ironing down the fold as you go.

Fabric can (and will) behave differently sometimes – these two strips were made the same exact way but the blue pressed much more nicely. They can both be used this way though, so it’s not a problem.

If you don’t have a tape maker, you can still create the fold by hand. First, fold the entire piece in half and iron it down. Open this up, then fold in one edge to the center line and iron it down. Repeat for the other side.

So, now that your tape is cut, what do you do if it’s not long enough for your project?? I always try to use one piece of tape for the project I’m working on, but sometimes it’s necessary to join two pieces together. This can be a little confusing at first.

Start by laying one piece of bias down, with the good side facing up. Take your second piece and lay it on top (wrong side up) so the pieces are perpendicular to each other. (if your tape is folded open the folds up first)

See the square? You’re going to sew diagonally across this, from the top left corner to the bottom right.

If you’re not sure, pin the pieces together first, then open up the strip. This is what it should look like:

After sewing, cut off the excess, and press flat.

Now your tape’s ready to be sewn on!

“Make my blanket now please?”

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Tools & supplies post can be found here

Next up in this “sewing series” of posts – quilting!

I stitch all of my english saddle pads on my sewing machine. Yes, pre-quilted fabric does exist. There is a really nice in-scale material that a lot of tack makers use, however, I’ve only seen it for sale from overseas websites, and it’s quite expensive to have shipped to me. Also, you are limited to what colors it comes in, unless you want to get into dyeing fabric yourself. As far as I know prints don’t exist? I could be wrong of course.

So the main reason I quilt it all myself is for the freedom to use whatever color I want, or whatever print I want. Also, I wanted my work to look different from what everyone else was using. 😉

This post will show you how I quilt both a large and small square pattern. It’s really simple, and once you get the hang of it you’ll blaze through without thinking. 🙂

I make my English pads from a layer of felt and a layer of cotton, but you can use whatever material you’re comfortable with.

All of my quilting is done before cutting out the shape of the pad. I do this because more often than not, the layers will shift as you sew them together. This could really mess up the shape of my pad if I cut it out beforehand.

To start, sew a diagonal line starting at one top corner. If you like, you can draw this in with chalk and a ruler. (it will not go corner to corner unless your fabric piece is a perfect square)
Take your time with this line – this will be your guide for the remaining stitches.

Instead of using measurements, I use the foot of my sewing machine to determine how far apart to keep my stitching.
Here’s how I position the fabric for the small quilted pattern. I want my “guide line” to be in the center of the left side of the foot.

When sewing the second line, I keep my eyes on that guide line to make sure it remains in the center.

Success!

This process is repeated over and over again, until the entire piece is covered with diagonal lines.

Next, you’re going to do the same exact thing, but in the other direction. Starting at the opposite top corner, sew another diagonal guide line. Take your time with this one too. You want this line to be straight and perpendicular to the previous stitching.

Continue just as before, until the entire piece is covered. This piece is ready to be cut now.

The larger square pattern is created the same exact way. The only difference is the distance between the stitching. Just like before, I use the sewing machine’s foot to measure the distance. In this case, I try to keep the edge of the foot around 1/8 of an inch from the guide line.

Completed!

Don’t be discouraged if your squares aren’t quite square! My earlier pads never were. It’s taken a lot of practice to get my quilting consistent. (and sometimes it still isn’t, shhh!)

If you’re having trouble, it’s perfectly fine to draw in your quilting lines beforehand, and use those as a guide for sewing. You can experiment with different sizes and patterns too. After all, real saddle pads come in many different styles!

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