Millinery Photography Tips – The tripod.

This week’s tip may require a small investment but could make a huge difference. Plus this tip is not difficult to achieve.

When I photograph hats on stands, I nearly always use a tripod. In part because I get a consistency of image but also so that I can set up the camera (or smartphone if you are using one of those) to align correctly with the hat.

I also like the fact that the camera is shooting from a fixed point. That way I can move the hat without having to move the camera. Getting the fixed point matters because a tripod will help ensure that your hat is on the same plane as the camera. This is hard to do when you are holding your camera or phone in your hand because even the smallest of tilts can make a big difference and lead to distortion. You may think you are aligned when holding a camera in your hand but the chances are that you won’t be. So let’s fix that.

Behold the Tripod - The Portrait KitchenIf you look at this picture it shows how I set up behind the scenes. This is not a final shot, I am using it solely to demonstrate the difference aligning makes, (it also gives you some insight on how I set up a stand shot, which I will come back to on a future post).

Think of the hat as a wall. The camera or phone that is taking the image is an opposite wall. They are parallel and facing one another. This means that the perspective is spot on. If I tilted the camera it would bring in some distortion that would be noticeable in the stand base due to the laws of perspective.

Because the camera is now fixed on the tripod I can turn the hat into different positions by simply rotating the base. I am not moving the camera at all, only the hat and stand.

As a starting point I tend to shoot with the camera lens at eye level to the mannequin head. Personally I feel that is more balanced. I do this for what I call my ‘primary’ shot. By primary I mean the one shot that I want to make the viewer stop and learn more. This is a matter of personal taste but I prefer straight on. If you are using a camera the lens should be parallel with the floor. If you are using a phone or tablet it should be at facing the hat at exactly 90 degrees to the floor. It’s okay to be a few inches out height wise but my advice is not to tilt the camera. There are numerous apps you can get for a phone that will act as a spirit level. A lot of the latest DSLR cameras have that functionality built in.

My ‘secondary’ shots could be side on and behind and all I have to do for those is rotate the stand how I like. If you wanted to you could also raise the tripod to show detail on the top of the hat but remember things will start to distort as the perspective changes. My thinking is that the primary shot is there to grab attention whilst the secondary shots are to bring out additional details.

So which tripod should you go for? Tripods come in all shapes, sizes and prices. For this type of work you won’t need a heavy duty Manfroto or Giotto that say a landscaper would use. I did a bit of digging on Amazon for you and came up with this model that will more than suffice. It has a bracket that you can place pretty much any smartphone or tablet into. It also comes with a Bluetooth remote so if you are using a phone you can trigger the photo from that. Once you have your camera or phone attached you can then align it all up. If you try this I think you will notice a big difference.

Disclaimer: I receive no benefit from recommending a product to you. There may be better ones out there.

If you found this post useful but would like to learn more I do offer one to one Zoom calls where we dig more deeply into you photography process and I can provide advice. These last about an hour and can be as technical as you want them to be. To find out more visit our ‘Ask’ page here.

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