On Staging & Shooting

August 29, 2019

A look behind the book’s scenic photos

 

Photography day for Rebekah’s books is always one I look forward to. I have been at each one since the first book, and though the day is long, it is fun. You have to stay flexible and get creative, all in the name of creating a story for each beautiful piece. I always hope to help give a sense of purpose for each project while also adding a touch of whimsy and delight. We call setting up the photo “staging.” We set the scene, much like the stage of a play, but share it with a still image. This process would not nearly be as fun without the help of our talented photographer, Laura, who has taken photos for all three books. Her sense of light, patience, attention to detail and artistic eye help pull together Rebekah & my little vignettes.

 

There are all kinds of fun items in the book photos. Some are borrowed (a bench from my grandma, a framed feather from my sister Tessa, etc.), some are mine (books, a chair, a sewing machine, a mug, etc.), and some are Rebekah’s (most of the furniture and some small things). All of the photos were taken at Rebekah’s home. But we have to give a shout-out to Kathy Wright (you’ll meet her in the book) for the use of many of her antique items. She and her husband, Ron, have an amazing collection, and she graciously allowed us to go “shopping” at her house one day. We had an idea of what we needed, but we took a few things we weren’t sure that we needed. In the end, we used nearly everything. You’ll find their spice jars in Leaps and Bounds, their child’s shoes in Garden Patchwork, the shoe pincushion in A Place for Pieces, and other little odds and ends spread throughout the book. The list is too long to make here in full, but we know that the pictures would not be as magical without the delightful things she and Ron collect.

The setup for Garden Patchwork is one of my favorites. Lori Ann Corelis, known for her mohair animals, lent us a sweet bunny to sit under the wooly-quilt combo. Though she designed her project in wool, we wanted to give a nod to her mohair work as well. It added the perfect touch of sweetness to the little bed scene. The little bed itself was a miracle find, as we had been desperately searching for a tiny bed. I could see the scene in my head, but tiny antique beds (not cradles) are harder to find than one might think! We were fortunate to find one in an antique mall on our way to a workshop in Maryland not long before the shoot, and had just enough room in the car to cram it in.

Tiny details can always make a difference.The little old spectacles were borrowed from my sister Karly, and the tiny book is a New Testament once owned by by great-great Aunt Miriam. 

 

Though I had the gist of the scene above in mind, we struggled with the background until Laura noticed the architectural chest that sits in Rebekah’s living room. With the addition of one of my fraktur to make it feel like a room, the whole vignette came together, communicating the old-fashioned sweetness I had hoped it would. 

 Another favorite for us is Leaps and Bounds. I will do nearly anything for a shot, including bake cookies (such a burden, you know, to bake cookies for work). Rebekah and I wanted a more autumnal feel for this project, but not too autumnal, as it is not a seasonal book. So I went for a quintessential September-baking look. Apple harvests are in full swing, and your mouth starts to water for spice cookies.

 

The true advantage to using real cookies is that you can eat them during the other photos, especially if you do this set-up early on in the shoot. The three of us may have eaten quite a few…but photography is hard work, you know. We spent a lot of time moving the jars in this photo. “left, left…back to the right…a little more…perfect! Wait, no, actually, just a little more to the left…” Staging requires a lot of trial and error, because no matter how hard you try to set it up on the first try, it rarely works perfectly in the camera. Patience is a virtue in these situations!

By far the hardest photo to stage was the apron. We just had no ideas. We thought maybe having my sister model it would work, but when you have no other people in the photos, it doesn’t feel consistent. One of the ways we brainstormed is that we thought through how you would use it. It’s a sewing apron, so one might use it at a sewing machine. Light bulb! I have a very cute, vintage Featherweight (found for me by Teri Hedrick, who you'll meet in the Gallery of Friends in the back of the book). And then we thought about the set up of a sewing machine, and the idea of leaving it on the chair. It took the three of us awhile to come up with the idea, but once it was there, it became one of the best ones in the book. I, of, course, had to run home to get my sewing machine, which was not on the original “props” list, but it was worth it. We also put one of my grandma’s (Christine Miller) samplers hanging on the wall in this vignette, as we wanted some of her work besides the project to appear in the book.

I really enjoy this part of the book (and my job—I do most of the staging for the pattern line and our promotional photos). It is a unique job, but very rewarding. Our hope is that these photos inspire you to create quality objects by hand and give you ideas for how to use them in your home. I shared this with you today so that you could see how even behind the scenes, friendship is woven into this book from start to finish. It would not be as beautiful without our friends! 

 

 

Which photos are your favorites? Share in the comments below, and you will be entered to win a free copy of the book! We will select a winner Wednesday September 4, 2019. If you already have one, enter anyway, so you can pass along these projects to a stitching friend, in hopes that, they, too, might be inspired to try something new. Inspiration awaits! 

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