- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Spring 2018
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Spring 2019
For obvious reasons, we didn’t include any “bad” quilt photos here, but we’ve included plenty of great ones. These are all photos of quilts that were submitted to us for various exhibits at our shows over the last year.
Absolutely Certifiably Insane by Connie Peterson and Janet Mason.
Vine Ripened by Ellen Lindner.
YoYos a la Mode by Rachael Daisy.
Floral Baltimore by Hana Joo.
Detail from Happiness by Ann Pigneri.
Detail from Suspended Diamonds by Michele Lea.
Swim Team by Betty Busby.
There are a number of reasons one might want to photograph a quilt they’ve made or purchased: in order to enter it into a competition or exhibit, to share it with others online, or simply to document the quilt in its current state. We highly recommend the last of those. In fact, all of the quilts we receive for display at our shows are photographed when we receive them and again before we send them back to their maker or owner.
When entering a quilt for possible inclusion in one of our special exhibits, you are required to provide both an overall and a detail photo of the quilt being submitted. It is these two photos that the jurors for said exhibit use to determine whether a quilt will be accepted, so it’s very important that the photos do a good job of representing the quilt.
You certainly don’t need to be a professional photographer (or hire one!) or have any type of formal photography training in order to take a good photo of a quilt. You don’t even need an advanced camera. What is most important—regardless of your purpose in photographing a quilt—is finding the right place, the right lighting, and displaying the quilt in the right way.
Use the camera you have! Don’t feel that you need to purchase a high-end or new camera in order to take a good photograph. An advanced camera with all of the bells and whistles isn’t much good if you don’t know how to ring the bells or blow the whistles.
Instead, use the camera with which you’re most familiar. In fact, depending upon the type of phone you have, you could potentially even use your phone’s camera to take a picture.
If you know how to use your camera’s various settings, play around with those to get the right picture. If you are more comfortable leaving it on “auto,” that’s fine too. Either way, be sure to use your camera’s settings and zoom to capture the true color and design of your quilt. Make sure your camera is focused. If your hand is shaky, use a tripod or a solid surface to stabilize the camera.
When taking a detail photo of a quilt, try to focus on a specific detail you would like to highlight—like the quilting in a particular area—and adjust your camera to focus on that detail. And never just crop a smaller “detail” out of a larger photo of the entire quilt. It will inevitably appear blurry or will lack contrast.
LOCATION AND POSITION
This is probably the most important tip if you are planning to use your photo to enter a quilt. Your entire quilt—and nothing but your quilt—should be visible in your photo. We receive thousands of quilt photos each year, and, in the process, get a good look at people’s beds, fences, garage doors, cats, and manicures.
When taking a quilt photo, be sure to avoid any objects, pets, people (yes, fingers holding a quilt included!), or scenery in the background. If you would like to photograph your quilt outside in natural light (see next tip), do so, but be sure to crop the photo to remove the background as much as possible. Your quilt shouldn’t have to compete with background noise for attention.
Also, don’t drape your quilt over furniture or lay it flat on a bed or the floor. Unless you are 20 feet tall, you will not be able to square your quilt up in a photograph while it lies on the ground. And your antique table is lovely, but we want to see your entire quilt! Unless you are a stylist working for a quilt magazine, the quilt should not be draped or laid over any other items, however darling they may be.
Also, side note: We realize that quilts are feline magnets and trying to photograph a quilt with a cat nearby will almost certainly result in a photo with a random cat paw or tail or cat-shaped blur in the corner. Pro tip: A spray bottle with a little water goes a long way…
Take photographs on a light neutral or black wall or background. To take the photo, position yourself directly in front of the quilt so that you have a straight-on angle. Before snapping away, take a look at our next tip…
We don’t have to tell you that lighting is important. As a quilter, you likely already know that the color of a fabric can appear differently depending upon the amount and type of light on it.
After positioning a quilt to photograph, take a look at it. Is the lighting distributed as evenly as possible across the front of the quilt? Do the true colors of your quilt and design appear as they should? If the answer to either of those questions is no, you either need to adjust the lighting or reposition the quilt.
Natural outdoor lighting can be an amazing thing for any type of photography. But you have to be careful about the time of day, as direct sunlight can cause shadows or a glare that obscures details in the photo and can bleach out the color of your quilt.
If shooting indoors, you have the option of using the flash on your camera. In some cases, that may be fine. In other cases, the flash may distribute the light unevenly, or make your quilt design look flat (fail to capture the various textures). So, as you are taking photos, look at the ones you’ve already taken and determine whether the flash is helping or hurting your work and adjust as needed.
There are many options—from cameras to lighting to quilt stands to backdrops—that one could utilize to capture professional-grade photos with a little time, patience, and practice. But we know that realistically, most of the quilters who enter work for our shows—and those who are photographing their quilts for documentation purposes—aren’t necessarily going to have the resources or time to create an in-home studio for their quilt photography. And that’s absolutely fine! The goal should be to use the tips above to capture as flattering a photo as possible of your quilt with the skills and equipment you have.
Once you have chosen the photos you would like to use, save them to your computer and, if needed, crop them to remove the background. Save them as jpegs, RGB color (the default setting on most editing software), and take a moment to admire your work.