Sunday, February 19, 2012

Focus on Photography - A Conversation (and GIVEAWAY) with Kat Goldin

One of the reasons I love Etsy so much is that I get to meet so many fabulously skilled crafters from all over the world.  I love to browse crochet patterns and am always drawn in when I see crochet photographed beautifully.  I recently came across some absolutely gorgeous photographs of some adorable crocheted hats.  I emailed the shop owner, Kat Goldin of Scotland, to ask her about her work, specifically her ability to capture her crochet designs on film. I still struggle to get good shots of my products, so I was so happy to find that Kat was incredibly generous about sharing her photography secrets.  She was also kind enough to stop by for an interview and GIVEAWAY to two lucky winners! See below on how to enter.

You can find Kat on Etsy, Facebook, and her Blog.  Let's show her some love!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Iowa, but live in Scotland with my South African husband and 3 children: Ellis, 4, Georgia, 22 months, and Theo,10 months.  I am a blogger, keen photographer as well as a crochet and knitwear maker and designer.  I have been selling on Etsy for a few years, but only just to friends up until October 2011 when I decided to take it seriously and started publishing my designs.  (They are all available on Ravelry as well as my free patterns, fyi)

What is on your hook right now?
A lot! I have about 6 hats I need to finish for mailing out tomorrow!!  I always have too many projects and too many ideas.  I struggle with inspiration overload and will often stay up most of the night working on new ideas on top of my normal workload.
What inspires your crochet design style?
I actually stay away from a lot of he usual sources of crochet inspiration (pinterest, etsy, ravelry) and look instead at story books, history and real life for inspiration.  For example, the Pixie hat was designed because I wanted a snug little hat with a short point for when my newest baby was in the sling.  But then, I am always up for a challenge.  The Snugasaurus hat was actually a dare on Facebook!!

How did you become interested in photography?
It developed out of my blog.  I am a perfectionist and I couldn't stand when my photos weren't absolutely the best!! I started learning and reading and working hard to get great images of my kids and my life.  What started out as a hobby has become a slight obsession where a camera MUST be with me at all times. I use photography for the blog, for my Etsy shop and I also do a fair bit of paid photography work.

Only yesterday I took delivery of my new (rather sexy) camera- a Canon 7d, but I have been mostly shooting on a Canon Rebel xsi - a really fantastic entry level DSLR. Prior to that, I had been using a Panasonic Lumix DMC - FZ18 - an excellent point and shoot option.

Do you need a DSLR to get the quality shots that you get?
Without a doubt, one can get great shots with point and shoot cameras.  However, you have to work harder to do so, or as I recently heard it described, "Your photos can still sing no matter what the camera, but the better the camera the higher the notes".  The trick lies not in the camera or kit you have, but in how well you use it. Understanding some very basic principles of photography and learning how your camera works will probably do more to improve your images than laying out a lot of money for an expensive DSLR.

That said, there are things that DSLRs can do that point and shoots just can't, or at least not as well.  DSLRs give you a lot more control over the images you are capturing as they enter the camera, even in a fully manual mode on a P&S, you still will not have the range of options like a different lens and external flashes.

It looks like a lot of your photos have an interesting depth of focus that gives the background a blurry effect. Can you tell us how you achieve that look?
 I get that look using a 50mm f1.8 lens on my camera.  The lens, also called the "Nifty Fifty" is a great investment for a  casual product and portrait photographer with even an entry level DSLR. Its not expensive for a lens (about $100) and can really give some lovely shots.  It is my go-to lens and I rarely use anything else!

Can you share with us any final tips, techniques, and suggestions can recommend to the struggling photographer like myself?

Read your camera manual (and if you don't have it, most manuals are available online)!!!  Point and shoots and even DSLRs set into "automatic" take pictures based on a series of assumptions about the scene they are photographing...the amount of light available, the colours, the distance to the image, which object you want focussed on. The thing is, they aren't always right.  The camera is often fooled by things like bright backgrounds or available light, so learning how to change the settings so you can get the image you (and not the camera) want.

Also, turn off the flash -- 9 times out of 10 a straight flash will ruin your picture.  Now, living somewhere that rains 11 months of the year and is only light for a few hours a day in Winter, I know better than most that sometimes a flash is necessary. If you have to use it, then try bouncing the flash off of a white business card.  I have successfully used a train ticket held in front of my flash to give a more even light.  Also, if you have a DSLR, a Lightscoop is a good and cheap investment.

For small products, setting up a lightbox is cheap and easy.  I use a white "blackout" blind from ikea, draped over the back of my sofa in the sunniest room of the house. Even a large box lined with white paper with the front and one of the sides open for light to get in is a great way to get professional looking photos.

Finally, editing software can help make your images even better.  There are free packages like Gimp available, so you do not have to spend a penny.  However, if you can, I do recommend Adobe Lightroom.  If you have children in school, you can usually get it at the education price and it is a great investment, because lets face it, in the world of online sales the image is the key.

Find photographers you like and investigate how they take their photos.  I have been really inspired by Ashley Ann Campbell of Under the Sycamore. She is great because she does a lot of explaining "how" she gets the images she does.

And most importantly - take a lot of photos.  Commit to improving and practice! Yes, there will be some horrible shots, but there will be good ones as well and over time the good will outweigh the bad.

And Now it's GIVEAWAY Time!!!

Kat is offering to two lucky winners one pattern each.  To enter, please go to her Etsy page and check out her crochet patterns, then comment below and tell us which one is your favorite!  Giveaway ends and winners will be chosen on February 26, 2012. Please do not forget to leave your email address so that we can get in touch with you if you win.

Thanks to Kat for the wonderful advice and fabulous giveaway!


  1. WOW! Awesome photos and patterns. I really enjoyed reading this. I LOVE all the patterns but have been looking for an owl pattern for a bit so thats the one I would like if I win (please win, Vanessa!).
    My email is honured@yahoo.coom
    Great job Sarah!

  2. Thanks Kat for talking about your photography! I stumbled across your blog last fall and now read it regularly. I just love your photographs. They've made me want to step up my game for my own blog. I've been thinking about investing in a better camera, but I now I think I'll give mine another chance (it's a Canon Power Shot Sx10IS).

    I love all of your patterns, but I especially appreciate the snugasaurus. I've tried to make "monster" scales on hats before and they've always turned in to droopy messes. I made one that was orange with green scales for my nephew. My sister thanked me for the "squash" hat. Oops! So I admire the work and technique that went in to your design!

  3. I love all the hats but I think my favourite has to be Spartacus!

    1. I lucyd8, you won! You didn't leave an email address though. Please email me at ballhanknskein at gmail to claim your prize. Thanks!

  4. This one is my favorite:
    I have also added your giveaway to my blog giveaway page, hope you don't mind.

  5. Great patterns and photos and blog post! :-) katie.hanken(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. The aviator hat first caught my eye, of course, but I've gotta say I'm IN LOVE with the Stegosaurus hat pattern!!!

  8. I would love the shaggy lion hat pattern, my 2 year old's favourite animal is a lion, rarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  9. I'm trying to convince my mum to knit the owl leg warmers for me so I'd love to win that! Alice x

  10. I love the shaggy lion pattern, it is adorable. Thank you for the photography tips!

  11. I'm having a hard time deciding, but I think it's the pixie hat. They are so cute! Sydney.cole at gmail

  12. I love the stegosaur pattern! It rocks!!! That's the one I'd choose!! :)

  13. Omg your snugasouris is so flippin adorable! Love <3 love it! My nephews would.look sooooooo cute in it! Thats definatly my pick!. Hope you have a wonderfull day and thank tou for the givaway! My e mail is

  14. missed this giveaway but do know your stuff - especially that snugasaurous hat as it's in my favorites on etsy. You children are naturally lovely models for your crochet work.

  15. Your giveaway featured on my site. This site is set-up for international giveaways. If you have another giveaway that you would like advertising please email me:
    You are more than welcome to become a follower and see if there are some giveaways you would like to enter. The advertising on my site is currently for free. I post a picture with a link to each giveaway and these are posted 5 days before the end of the giveaway.


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