Needlepoint snaps 101



Light Meter

This informative post is about what one needs to know when first attempting to take  needlepoint pics with a digital camera. Many thanks to Marilyn for her excellent contribution!

Guest post by Marilyn

First, let’s discuss white balance.

Tungsten lights are normal, old fashioned light bulbs like we all grew up with. I think the newfangled ones are built to simulate the old ones, so this may still apply. When you look in a lit window at night, the light appears yellow.

Why is that?

Because it is. So when you have the camera set to Tungsten, the camera will add blue to the photo to counteract the yellow that you are telling it is in the scene. Hence your dingy gray blue photos. [Ed note: gulp!]

Fluorescent light, on the other hand, is greenish.

Remember film photos taken in the office? When you set the camera to fluorescent, it will add magenta to counteract the green you told it was there. Daylight is nice, white light that doesn’t need any help from the camera, which is what the Daylight setting does. Nothing.


Img from Wiki

Unless, of course, a hurricane is approaching, when daylight might be green. But I digress. Cloudy and shade are a bit blue, so the camera will add yellow and orange to offset them if that is what you have the camera set to. When you use a good light that is daylight balanced, like Ott lights or some fluorescent bulbs, then you should be able to use the daylight setting on your camera.

Auto white balance is telling the camera to really take charge and figure out the lighting for itself. Most of the time, it does a very good job. But when we fussy stitchers really want the colors to be right, Auto sometimes fails us. For instance, when taking a close up where the whole frame is taken up with my teal and purple geometric, the camera really has no way of knowing what colors it is seeing.

The Auto setting works best on normal photos, of people, scenery, etc., that the camera somehow has in its repertoire. Regarding f-stop, that controls how much of the photo is in focus. When shooting painted canvases, they should be flat and at right angles to the camera, so the f-stop can be a very low number, which is also a very small depth of field.

When taking overall shots of the shop, you would want a higher numbered f-stop so that the whole photo is in focus. Shutter speed works with f-stop to get the exposure right. The smaller the f-stop number, the faster the shutter speed will be. With larger f-stop numbers, the shutter speed will have to be longer, and that may mean you need a tripod to keep the camera still.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016

Light meter img from


About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

2 responses »

  1. you are most welcome, Anny. Marilyn really knows her stuff! I still have to finish taking all those belt pics, and I’m finding that it does take some experimenting to see and evaluate the different effects, and then choose the setting that work best. there is a whole other side of things of course that the post does not get into, namely, the differences between the various file formats (such as the merits of PNG vs some other file format), once that pic is taken, and of course the mashing that WP does when you upload (which may cause a loss in resolution), not to mention the capabilities (in terms of pixel count) of the various monitors that various people use. This is truly a vast subject, and I am a not a graphical Web artist, but maybe those who know a lot more about this stuff might contribute their experience or specialized knowledge to other stitchers. I’m just trying to find something that works properly on canvases that have a lot of unpainted areas — as these sorts of items tend to be very difficult to photograph attractively.

  2. Well I’ve certainly learnt a few things here today! Thank you, this explains a lot about the issues I have. I’m not sure I’ll be able to take any better shots, but at least now I’ll understand more about what’s going on in the camera!

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