I’ve got another review today! This time it’s of Craftsy’s “Shoot It!”, with instructor and knitting photography guru Caro Sheridan. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably seen her photos around the knitting internet and on Ravelry. A few of them have probably even been featured in Friday Finds posts here! She’s got a wonderful eye, and being a crafter herself, she really gets what people want to see in a product photo.
(This post is going to be boringly devoid of photos—ironic, as it’s about a photography class.)
If you’re not familiar with Craftsy, I encourage you to go poke around the site. It’s a clever online platform to teach a variety of skills in all manner of crafting. I haven’t found that it’s social aspect is terribly robust, but then I haven’t been playing on it in that manner, so I’m sure it’s a case of getting what you put into it. Each course features a series of videos—you can preview most of the videos in a course, or at least enough to get the gist of the instructor’s methods—and accompanying “homework.” The knitting courses haven’t really appealed to me—I’ve pretty much already done everything they’re teaching, although the Icelandic Sweater class is currently catching my eye, if only because I want to knit one. But they’re great resources for anyone who wants to learn how to knit or have some extra assistance for a technique that springs the butterflies in your belly.
Being a photography hobbyist for a few years but never having had any formal training, “Shoot It” was really calling to me for a while. If you’re a member of Craftsy, you’ll get the occasional email announcing a sale on classes (and all classes come with a money-back guarantee, so if it really doesn’t work out for you at all, you’re still covered). I was able to get the class for $14.99, which is pretty much a steal for the production value of the class alone.
I liked Caro’s informal and conversational approach to photographing projects. She covers camera settings (in broad, sweeping terms, because obviously she can’t teach for all makes and models of cameras out there) and provides tips for both DSLR users and point-and-shoot users. Her tips for defining your own photography style and organizing a photo shoot are really great as well.
My biggest problem with this class was that it is geared toward users who are using product photography to sell—and that totally makes sense and if that’s what you’re looking to do, then this is the class for you. However, at this point in my crafting life, I’m really trying to figure out how to take photos of myself wearing pieces that I’ve knit. I found that some of the information can be sort of flipped around and applied to those settings—for example, the pointers Caro provides for working with live models could be easily inverted to “Okay, self, think about this thing when you’re setting up your shots.”
Obviously all of this would be moot if I felt that I could get a friend to take the photos for me but I’m really persnickety (I mean… stupid faces of me wearing a hat and all, you should see the shots that didn’t make it into the blog post). I’m also reluctant to ask my friends to give up their time to deal with me quasi-directing from in front of the camera (see above, re: persnickety). So I was hoping to get a little more usable information for my self-portraits.
(There is a bonus lesson on self-portraits, but Caro mostly focuses on headshots and I’m trying to show off a sweater’s shoulder seam!)
I also thought the organization was a little strange. The lesson on the basics of using the camera—the relationship between shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, for instance—was number 7; meanwhile there’d been lots of encouragement to go out and take lots of photos and think about exposure and stuff. Obviously people can take photos and take good photos without understanding the basic workings of their cameras, but it struck me as an odd way to get through the material.
While this course wasn’t entirely helpful in the very specific way I was hoping it would be, it is overall a really great course and I definitely came away with having learned new ways to take pictures. I sometimes am called up on to photograph my friends for various reasons (sometimes for knitwear, even), so I can take this knowledge with me to help get good shots for my friends.