Closet Case Files: Photography Tips


Closet Case Files: Photography Tips

Last week I talked about how I’ve been editing and organizing photos. I thought it might be a good idea to follow up with a post on what I’m shooting with these days. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating since I’m a bit of a gear head. Blogging can be demanding and sometimes it’s nice to hear what other people are up to if it will save you money or time down the road.

There is lots of information available on how to improve your blog photos so I won’t rehash that all here, except to say that I became much happier with the quality of my photos once I invested in a good camera and lens and started venturing outside to take advantage of natural lighting and all the weird little alleys Montreal has to offer (I get really uncomfortable “posing” in public so the more private, the better.) Of course not everyone has the budget to buy expensive cameras, and you can definitely get good results with simpler setups. If you are interested in upgrading, this post may be for you.

My blog photos are definitely a work in progress that I hope to improve with every post, but I think most of us can agree that this is a huge improvement from the backlit horror that is this. Having a great camera doesn’t just mean better blog photos either; I think we’d all benefit if we stepped away from our iphones every once and a while and used cameras that actually take great photos, images that we will treasure longer than an ephemeral instagram snap (something I have to remind myself whenever I am too lazy to bring my camera on vacation – I always regret it).

Over the years I’ve worked with a number of cameras, from point and shoots to DSLRs. I traded in my Canon Rebel last year for a camera that I am utterly in love with. I think it is pretty much an ideal choice as a blogging camera because of its size, cost, flexibility and ease of use.

Closet Case Files: Camera tips

A photography nerd friend of mine traded in his DSLR setup for the Sony NEX5N and I was an immediate convert when I started playing with it (the model has since been updated to the Sony NEX-5TL). It is a mirror-less camera; what this means it that it doesn’t use the mirror/shutter system of traditional DSLRS. It uses a sensor like traditional  point and shoots, but the sensor is bigger and more powerful which results in better quality photos and much better results in low-lighting (you can read a more technical explanation of what that means here). Like DSLRS, you can use interchangeable lenses. This technology is still fairly new and is getting better all the time, but Sony is definitely kicking butts and taking names with this type of camera; everyone else is running to catch up (and this from a former Canon devotee!)

The biggest advantage in my eyes is the size; my Sony is about two thirds the size of my old Canon. It fits in my purse and is easy to keep on me at all times. Photography purists may disagree, but I dislike using viewfinders; rather than looking into one to compose your shot on a DSLR, you can preview your shot directly on the LCD screen, which makes playing with manual settings much more fun for beginners (although there is a viewfinder piece you can purchase that snaps on top). Additionally, some NEX models have screens that rotate 180 degrees, making self portraits a snap to shoot. I use mine all the time to compose photos when I’m working alone.

It is very easy to find cheap accessories on ebay (like remotes) and you can basically attach any lens ever made onto the body using different lens adapters, also available on ebay. I have fun playing with some 1960′s Russian lenses I found for around $30 each. If you have any older film cameras lying around, you can re-purpose the lenses very easily. The nice thing about this is that if you don’t have a budget to start buying expensive lenses, you can easily find good used film lenses for under $100. You won’t be able to use autofocus using lens adapters and older lenses but that ain’t no thang. Why?

When the Sony NEX is set to manual focus, you can highlight in a chosen colour what is in focus on the screen. If you’ve ever tried to take a photo in low light situations you may have found that it is hard to autofocus on the subject using the built in focus beam. This highlight means you don’t have to squint through a viewfinder and hope for the best since it shows you exactly what is in focus before you take the picture.

Closet Case Files: Sony NEX

Check out this sweet highlighted focus action. Also, it fits in the palm of my hand.

For the first year, I used the included kit lens which is very serviceable but won’t give you knockout results. Unfortunately if you want to really up your photography game, you’ll have to invest in a good prime lens at some point. A prime lens means it doesn’t zoom; it has a fixed focal length which let’s you widen the aperture so more light comes in, meaning you can shoot images at a faster shutter speed. If you’ve ever tried to take photos indoors on a crappy camera, you know how difficult it is to get nice,  bright photos without any blur. A big ol’ aperture helps you achieve that, along with creating that lovely softness behind the subject that makes outfits pop.

I did a lot of research and settled on this 35mm f/1.8 prime lens. The f/1.8 aperture means I have enough light to take photos inside my apartment when the snow is 4 feet deep, while also having enough of a wide angle that it doesn’t cut too much off. A lot of people recommend a 50mm lens for fashion/styling photography, but I find that it is really hard to use indoors unless you have tons of space since it is so “zoomed” in. The 35mm strikes the perfect balance.

This “zoomed” in quality is confusing if you haven’t worked with lenses before so I took two photos from the same spot in my studio. The image on the left was shot using the kit lens. The image on the right is using my 35mm. As you can see, the kit lens shows much more in the frame, but I had to use a very slow shutter speed (1/8 of a second) to get the same amount of light. If  I tried to shoot myself I would have to be very still or risk blurriness. The widest aperture on the kit lens is f/3.5, which is half as much light available using my f/1.8 prime lens. I shot the 35mm prime lens using 1/30 of second; easy to take photos of people without blur.  I’d have to be standing about 12 feet away to capture a head to toe shot, so you do lose some space, but you gain speed and light, like Superman.

Closet Case Files: Comparing Sony NEX lenses

I also took a few photos of the dummy pulled away from the background so you can see the lovely soft blurry effect you get from using the 35mm lens. That blurred background really makes what you are focusing on stand out.

Closet Case Files: Comparing Sony NEX lenses

If you’re looking to upgrade cameras, I highly suggest taking a look at the Sony NEX system. They have an affordable starter model called the NEX-3NL that comes in at around $370 US. I am using a slightly older version of the Sony NEX-5TL which is just under $500. Both models have the flip up screens. The main difference is the 5TL is faster and can shoot in lower light conditions (it goes up to 25600 ISO) , but with a decent prime lens you’d be fine with the 3NL if you have decent light.

For lenses, I recommend the 35mm f/1.8 prime. The 50mm f/1.8 is a little cheaper but it’s not as wide so you will be even more zoomed in. Don’t forget the ability to attach older lenses using inexpensive lens adapters. A good remote with a 2 second delay is a great add-on since you can hide it before the picture snaps. Finally, I couldn’t live without my tripod. I bike around town with it sitting in my bike basket like a weirdo.

Whoof. I think that was my most technical post ever. Hopefully someone got something out of this! There isn’t one perfect answer to the camera conundrum, but I am totally thrilled with my current system after a lot of trial and error. Does anyone else use a NEX? What kind of camera are you shooting on these days? Anything else you’d like to know?


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Closet Case Files: Whats doing vol 11


Closet Case Files: Whats doing vol 11

Hope you’ve had a marvelous week. In an attempt to counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer 10 hours day, I started doing the 7 minute workout on my lunch break. Correction: I did the 7 minute workout once and couldn’t lift my hands over my head for 2 days afterward. I think that means it’s working? Enough about my painfully (literally) out of shape bod. Let’s look at stuff.


You probably already knew that Sally of Charity Shop Chic is a refashion legend. This pattern hack of her Martini pattern took my breath away.

These leather and ponte leggings from Lily Sage & Co. made me REALLY regret not scoring some leather when I had the chance in NY.

I have so much respect for people who throw themselves into epic sewing challenges for things they probably won’t wear every day. Dixie DIY has been working on an Edwardian costume and her beautiful period underthings take a kind of patience that leaves me in awe.

Rochelle’s adorable western Archer was accessorized with actual real life cats, and I laughed really hard.

I was so excited to see Hanne’s XYT dress hack! I was so torn about what back option to choose for mine, and I think hers looks awesome.

Really loved Deer & Doe’s new pattern. I love a shirt that covers the butt for maximum leggings time, and the faintly equestrian vibe makes me want to wear it with jodhpurs and riding boots.


Love Lola just wrote a great post on using Search Engine Optimization for maximizing your Google traffic.

Sarah Berkes makes lovely things on her handmade blog, but I’m really loving her branding posts too. If you’re thinking at all about this stuff for your small business, I highly suggest checking out her introduction to branding, creating a mood, and logo design.


Who else watched Troop Beverly Hills a million times when they were a kid? How about this breakdown of every outfit Shelley Long wore in the movie? In a word: YES.

I saw one of the best sci-fi movies ever this week: Snowpiercer. It’s by a great Korean director named Bong Joon-Ho and it’s his first English release. Hardly any CGI, the whole thing takes place on a train hurtling through a post-apocalypse frozen earth, with a stratified class system under revolt. So smart, beautiful, scary, funny. I loved it so much and haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s not on Netflix but is streaming on Amazon here.


I haven’t had a chance to makes these yet but they come highly recommend. If you are also obsessed with salt and vinegar chips, these salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas might make you feel a little better about pigging out.


I finally got a bunch of sewing tools I’ve been needing over the last week. I know sewing as a habit can get expensive but I don’t know why I waited so long to buy beeswax for handsewing and a wood clapper to get the best pressed seams ever.


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hudson pants


Closet Case Files - Hudson pants

All my freelancer friends were filled with advice when I started working from home. “Don’t sleep past 9am”. “Have a shower every day, no matter what. No seriously – EVERY DAY”. “Don’t even think about skipping breakfast”. And my favourite, “Don’t wear jogging pants. Ever”.

Well my friends, RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN. Yes, its true; grody paint-stained jogging pants you’re still wearing even though you broke up with the guy you stole them from 10 years ago are not appropriate for channeling the entrepreneurial spirit. But you know what is? Beautifully designed track pants made from the softest marle grey French jersey you ever did see.

Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants

These are, of course, the Hudson Pants by True Bias. When I was fabric shopping in Mood I headed straight to the fleece section because I was desperate for a pair of cozy, comfy pants that I wouldn’t be embarrassed being seen in when I walk to get my thrice a week Banh mi sandwich at lunchtime. I zeroed in right away on this fabric – I’ve never worked with French terry before but it is delicious – so soft and springy (unfortunately it’s not available online). I also got the little waist tie in NY at Pacific Trimmings.

These pants are so fun and quick to make, as is the case with most knit projects. Kelli’s instructions are clear and well written. The only change I made was to lengthen them by 1 1/2″ – I thought maybe I would skip the ankle cuff and just do a folded hem but I got voted down on instagram. In the end, I’m quite happy with the cuff. I think they look pretty awesome with a pair of heels, and this is exactly what I wore when I went to meet a friend for coffee last week. I paired it with a self drafted t-shirt that I am still working the kinks out of. It’s surprisingly tricky to get the perfect drape versus clingy factor; I wish I had bought more of this baby bum soft organic cotton at Mood. It’s like being caressed with angel eyelashes.

Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants

Construction wise I just serged all the seams. The terry was a little thick in places, especially when I was sewing the pants, pocket and waistband together, but my serger was a total champ. It probably took 3 or 4 hours from start to finish, so yes, I will be making a lot more this fall. Though let’s be honest, heels will probably not be making an appearance every day.

Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants Closet Case Files: Hudson Pants

In my sportswear ode to Run DMC, I pulled out my favourite blingy gold necklace, a commemorative souvenir form the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Boys in my town always go nuts when they see this thing and try to steal it.  Speaking of boys, these pants are very close to being unisex. My monsieur tried them on and wouldn’t take them off for the rest of the night, even though they were a little wide in the hips and short in the crotch. Kelli, I think that’s how you spell success.


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