Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photographing Our Quilts

Friends and fellow Mavens, I hope you won't think me presumptuous, but I have some suggestions for how best to photograph our little quilts.  One of our number recently emailed me and asked me to post on this subject.  So, here it is!

1.  Try to take the photo of the quilt "straight on."  In other words, pin the quilt to a vertical surface and aim the camera right at the quilt, zooming in if possible to include only the quilt in the picture.

2.  Natural light is best!  Flash photography almost always distorts colors.  If weather permits, pin the quilt to something like foam board and take the picture outdoors.

3.  If it is too cold and windy to take a photo outside, if possible set up your "board" or whatever the quilt is pinned to and position it beside a window that lets in good natural light.  Disengage your flash and take a photo.  Take another with the flash.  Later you can compare which one is best, but almost always, the one taken without flash is more true, as far as colors are concerned.

4.  If you have photo editing software on your computer, once you have downloaded the picture, try cropping to eliminate extraneous background distractions from your quilt.

5.  When you are selecting the photos to put on the blog, be sure that you choose the "medium" size.  That way, the pictures look good on the blog, but they are "clickable," so that viewers can click on the photos to see an enlarged view.

I have two big pieces of insulation board, purchased at a Home Depot or similar store, which I use when I paint fabrics.  I can pin my quilts to that, take them outside, and take them in natural light.  Of course, I live in Texas, and we have more bright sunny days here than we do cold, wet, dark days!

So if you just have to use flash, then so be it.  But, please, do try the tactic of taking the photograph "straight on" and zooming in as close as possible.

Thanks and forgive me if I have offended anyone!

Here are some photos to show you how I set things up to take pictures of my little quilts:

Here my quilts are, pinned to the insulation board I use when painting fabric.  It is 36 degrees outside, but
sunny and not very windy.  Even so, I had to put the brick up to hold the light weight board in place
vertically--otherwise the board kept tipping over.  I could have tilted it a bit, with the bottom set
out a bit from the screen it's propped against, but I was afraid that would result in distortion.

This one was on the bottom, so I sat in a chair and took this photo
"straight on".  Of course, no cropping has been done here yet.

For the quilt on top, short Alice could stand up and shoot it from a standing position.
No cropping yet on this one, either, of course.

Now here are the two quilts, quickly cropped with some very simple editing software on my iMac:

I wasn't careful enough in pinning this quilt, as you can see when I cropped, since
the right side is higher than the left.  But at least the ugly background
is, for the most part, removed.

This one, too, not carefully pinned, so I can say the same thing about it!


  1. Hi Alice,

    Thank you so much for the great info and photos...much appreciated!

  2. It is good to have instructions for cookie cutter photos, but I like the variety they come in. However, very good suggestions should one want to use. Thanks for all your efforts at MM.

  3. Thanks Alice, now I just need to work on getting square quilts .

  4. Alice, What GREAT photography suggestions. I didn't know all of this info and have had trouble with the color, etc. I've always admired your photos of the kids that you post on your personal blog. Now I know your secrets. I will give them a go for our next quilt reveal. THANKS VERY MUCH!

  5. Alice, I use iPhoto editing on my iMac and there is a straightening option I recently discovered. Straighten first, then crop. Also, professional photographers have recommended using a white,black or gray background to pin quilts to for photographing. Colors will influence the look of your finished quilt unless you crop it out. You didn't mention a tripod but that helps with clear focus as well.

  6. Wow - more great suggestions. Thanks Judy!

  7. Thanks Alice. I was having a hard timing getting the picture to be square even though the piece was(well at least mostly square). I am determined to have a good picture this next reveal!!

  8. What great suggestions from our latest member, Judy! I often take my quilt photos against my white or cream colored design wall background, with the Western light coming in my three windows in my studio, and probably that works even better than taking them outdoors! For one thing, I noticed recently that a shadow appears when I take in full sun; funny that even something PINNED to a background can form a shadow. I have iPhoto on my iMac, too, but never knew about the straightening option! Thanks so much, Judy! Wonder if I ought to edit and revise this post?????

  9. I've learned first hand, it's best to shoot outdoor photography on an overcast day. In winter here, when I used to pin quilts to the garage door, they would invariably have a bluish hue. It's from the sky. For outdoor shots, try early morning before the sun is bright - ha, now that I think of it, it's probably bright everywhere but in Alaska - anyway, experiment but avoid direct sun.