Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Get a Picture of a Knitting Swatch

I am camera illiterate and not likely to improve soon.  My husband is very good with a camera.  Unfortunately every time he sees me with a camera he assumes I want his help.  If I let him help, he starts barking advice at me and peppering me rapid-fire with a lot of terminology that does little to alleviate my confusion.  I need a better teacher.   

So -- how to get pictures of knitting swatches for my web site without making myself a target for my husband's hectoring?  Enter my cheap little HP printer scanner and a few items from the craft shop.  I use a 1.5" thick slab of Styrofoam and a thin sheet of black craft foam as a foundation for pinning out my swatches.  The Styrofoam came wrapped in a thin, clear shrink wrap of plastic.  I have never removed that plastic so that I never have little bits of Styrofoam rubbing off the slab.  I anchored the craft foam to the Styrofoam with four, t-top, blocking pins.  I used a straight-edge to score barely visible, 1" grid lines on the craft foam.  That grid helps when pinning a swatch out on the block.  I use the same blocking pins when mounting swatches on the block.  I have been using this method the six or seven years and I have only replace the Styrofoam slab once.

Once the swatch is mounted, I put the block, swatch side down on my scanner.  I run through the dialog boxes in the HP user interface.  I do a little manipulation of the scanned image in the HP environment.  Then I save it to a relatively high resolution .JPEG file.   This initial file still shows all my blocking pins.

Next I open the file in a photo editor.  My photo editor is Corel PaintShop Pro X4, however, there are many other photo editors applications that will allow for trimming and resizing an image. 

The first action I take is to correct the alignment of the image.  Although the grid lines on the craft foam help, I usually need to rotate the image a few degrees to the right or left. 

The second action I take is to crop out the best part of the image.  I copy this part out to a new .JPEG file.  This will be the view of the swatch that I put on the web site. 

The third step is to resize the image for the web.  I try to resize the image so that its size is less than 45 kilobytes (Kb).  It is important to keep the size of images on the web small.  Even 45 Kb is a bit risky.   But if there are not a lot of images on a page 45 Kb is probably within reason.  I save this reduced size image into my pictures directory.

Then for my last step I create an even more reduced size copy of the file.  This much reduced image is the thumbnail.  If you are familiar with my web site, I use a lot of these small images.  The thumbnail should be as small as is possible without making the little image a complete blur -- 4Kb is a good target for the thumbnail size, but you may have play with this to get a balance between size and visibility.  This small image make it reasonable to have many images on a page without making the page very slow to load.  I save this small image into my thumbs directory.

There are swatches that do not lend themselves to the scanner treatment.  Bobbles and over sized swatches don't go well on the scanner.  For those I put myself back on the mercies of my husband and his camera. 



  1. Great idea. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for the post.

  2. Just wanted to tell you -- today I found 2 sweater wheels at the thrift store!

    I wouldn't have known what they were except for you.

    And thank you.


  3. You know when you do have to use the camera it's pretty much the same. At least I would jut block it the same way and stand over it and take a few pictures. Then proceed the same way. I think you could do it on your own no problem.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm at a point where I want to take better pics of my knitting projects and have been doing so much better with finished articles. This post is so useful for photographing swatches...I confess I've been too scared to try that, but I have hope now :)

    I'm also knitting my "own design" baby sweater currently and find your website an invaluable tool, thank you so much...will be doing a post on this wonderful resource *double thank you*

    Take care

  5. Brilliant! I never thought of using my scanner. I just keep taking lousy piks. I will use the scanner. Thank you for explaining this method so clearly.

  6. Hi how I take photos
    a) window is in front of me
    b) a little table nearby
    c) lamp above the table (important,the brightest lamp I have :-))
    d) white tablecloth
    e) Pentax K-R automatic without flash, to get the right colors or your smartphone or iPad
    e-1 a stool for me :-)

    f) photo from 300dpi to 72 => I use photoshop
    g)jpegminiDOTcom to shrink my photos for the web..without loosing quality

    it is absolut easier to use a camera than to use the scanner.

    and I love your pattern directory

    thanks for all the work.

    Sometimes it is hard to understand because english is not my motherspeech, but if I would knit a pattern I figured it out :-)