5 Tips For Raw Denim Photography

It is no secret that raw denim, often times selvedge, is far different than the typical denim seen regularly.  Raw selvedge denim has an abundance of character, both inside and out.  For instance, the weight, the weave, and the selvedge color are just three areas that add immense individuality and artistic value.

Having said that, a variety of moments arise where one feels obliged to photograph their raw denim.  It could be a more static and one-off shot, or a series of photographs documenting a denim’s fade progression (see our many “Fade Friday” episodes). Regardless of the scenario, however, when snapping shots of your coveted pair of raw denim, it is only fair you give them apply special treatment and take the time to apply some basic photography knowledge.

Below are my personal “5 tips…” that have guided me in capturing raw denim’s truly unique attributes.

1. Find A Sharp Background

Ragged Hem Raw Denim

The first thing to look for when shooting raw denim is a sharp background that will provide a good distinction between the background itself and the denim.  Contrast dramatically brings out the detail, true color, and texture of the denim.  Typically, lighter shades, such as white or tan, help bring out the characteristics of the denim and provide a fantastic contrast that does not create any tension for the viewer.

2.  Get Your Lighting Right

Ragged Hem Raw Denim - Lighting

Another very important element of raw denim photography is lighting.  Proper lighting is essential for showcasing the fine detail of the denim.  In a few photo sets shown, minimal studio lighting was utilized.  However, studio lighting is not a requirement in most circumstances.

When studio lighting is not being used, or merely unavailable, there are various steps that can be taken to ensure proper lighting for the photos.  Shooting outdoors in the morning, or late evening often times provides great lighting without being too harsh. It is also possible to create good lighting through a window in the early evening.   The light during the midday/afternoon is extremely harsh and will flatten the photo as well as wash out the details.

3. No Distractions – The Denim Is The Focus

Ragged Hem Raw Denim

When photographing denim, there should be little, or no, noise in the background.  There should not be anything surrounding the denim.  Don’t take the photo in front of a bright and/or colored wall, or in front of a distracting object.  Also try to avoid wearing patterned shirts that will take the focus away from the denim.

4. Achieve A “Bokeh” Effect

Ragged Hem Raw Denim - Brokeh Effect

A “bokeh” effectcreates a prominent out of focus blur in the background/edges of the image, thus helping outline and enhance the look of the subject.

Achieving a bokeh effect, whether through the lens itself or some type of editing software, dramatically helps the look and definition of the denim. In order to maximize the bokeh effect, utilize a well-lit background, get tight and snap your photo close to the denim, and it is ideal to work with a lens that provides a narrow depth of field (85mm, f/1.4 is a great lens)!

5. Well-Fit Denim & Framing

Ragged Hem Raw Denim - Well-Fit Denim

If jeans are to be worn in the photograph, they must fit well.  Otherwise if the denim is baggy or loose, the beautiful details that come with raw denim will not be properly presented and lost.  However, if the denim is not worn, ensure you are focusing (and framing) your attention on specific denim features.  For instance, in addition to the common bird’s eye view photographs of denim frontside and backside, you can also highlight the leather patch, show detail of the selvedge line, and bring attention to the unique fabric weave.

Photographing raw denim can be an interesting project due to the many variances in raw material.  Though there are many ways to best showcase the beauty of raw denim, these are the top five guidelines that have helped me the most.  Above all though, my best advice would be to practice and play with different lighting and layouts with the goal of finding what works best for you!

Stay Raw!

tw: @heddels | fb: Heddels | subscription: Heddels

Author BioDane Krizek is originally from rural Kansas and currently splits his time between New York and Kansas.  He recently graduated from George Washington University with a degree in International Business, and is pursuing several creative business endeavors; including his own denim line – Ragged Hem (launch date TBA).  You can follow him on twitter at @raggedhem.