Today we are going to look at 10 Tips for Photographing Quilts. One of my biggest struggles early on when we first started blogging was my lack of skills with photography. All my pictures were dingy and yellow and photographed on my un-vacuumed carpet (so embarrassing). Not that I an expert now by any sense of the imagination, but I have taken lots of classes and learned quite a few tips and tricks over the years. Trust me, I still have a long way to go, but I love the learning process in photography. It’s become a fun hobby.
So, today I am sharing some of my most beginning tips and tricks to taking better photos of your quilting and sewing projects. I think it took me about 4 years to learn all of these from experts much smarter than I am…but I know they work well!
Let’s get started…
Tip #1–Use what you have and learn it well. Don’t rush out and buy the most expensive camera on the market. Use what you have, but learn what it can do really well. So, this means practice. If you only have a camera phone—do not fret! You can take great pictures with a camera phone. If you have a DSLR (this is mine, affiliate link), learn to use it. Read the manual, get off auto. But my advice is don’t invest in a new camera until you first learn the in’s and out’s of the camera that you currently have. I shot the picture below with my iphone and use it all the time for blog photography. It’s handy and close and you can still get a fairly good image.
Tip #2–Use Natural light and turn off your flash. Natural light is the best for photographing anything. Remember when I was talking about my dingy yellow photographs? They were yellowed because I was photographing at night with my house lights on. I know we are all so anxious to sometimes photograph and document the hours we have spent making a quilt, but do yourself a favor if it’s midnight–wait until morning. I like to photography near big bright windows or you could even open your front door. Your pictures will thank you for natural light.
Tip #3– Backgrounds are Important. I tend to go pretty simple with backgrounds but textures and colors in the background can really help an image. You can use poster boards with contact paper on them (I have 3 or 4 I use a lot, affiliate link), a piece of beadboard from the home improvement store, laminate flooring clicked together (and then you can store the individual boards for later use) are simple and cost effective choices. Play around with backgrounds—they are fun to use!
Tip #4–Think about proportions. I have found that flat shots of quilts are quite difficult to get because sometimes the sides of the quilt or even the top and bottom of the quilt don’t look straight. The best advice I can give on this (and I am still practicing this one) is to shoot your photograph eye level with the middle of your quilt. You will either need to hang your quilt high to do this or crouch down to take the photograph, but it’s your best bet on making the lines straight on a quilt.
Tip #5–Stage the Quilt. Use the recipient of the quilt to stage the quilt. Or if it’s a baby quilt, use a crib to show how the quilt will be used. I like to keep in mind that it’s always great to photograph the quilt “in it’s home.”
Tip #6–Composition. One thing that I like to keep in mind when photographing a quilt is the composition of the image. The definition of composition is the visual process of organizing the elements and details of a scene into a balanced and pleasing arrangement. And one rule that I love is the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown below and placing your quilt where the lines intersect. It will naturally draw your eye to the quilt.
Tip #7–Show the Details. At one of the photography lectures I went to awhile ago, the speaker said, “If it’s not a great shot, you aren’t close enough.” And I truly believe it. So practice getting closer to your quilts…and showing lots of the details of the quilting that makes each one so lovely and so unique.
Tip #8–Keep it simple. If you want all the work that you have put into your quilt to show, keep the rest of the picture simple. White walls and simple props (I LOVE quilt ladders–aff. link) make great backdrops that you can use over and over again.
Tip #9–Vary the angles of your shots. One of my favorite shoots to get is when I am down on the ground looking up at the quilt. It’s sometimes not a pretty angle for shooting people a lot of the time, but it is a pretty angle for shooting quilts.
Tip #10–Perfection is not the goal. Whenever someone shows me a quilt, especially at a class we are teaching, they always say…”don’t look too closely, it’s not perfect!” And I often find myself saying the same thing…don’t look too closely….because photography a quilt is not perfect. I always see things I could have done better. And my style of photography is not going to be your style. So instead of beating ourselves up about “how not perfect” it is—let’s relish in our differences and the quirks that make our photography different! Like this quilt below, when I got home from shooting it–I so wished I had laid the quilt out on the arm of the chair better to see the Dr. Who fabric. But it didn’t happen, and it’s okay!
Any other tips you would add to this list? I still feel like I learn more every image I take…
tisha @ quiltytherapy says
Great tips. I need to find more natural light options this winter. It’s killing my blog photos.
Jan Altomare says
Those are all great tips. I will be pinning this list, as photos are my challenge for this year.
Jen Rosin says
Thanks for the tips! I find that the natural light part is the hardest for me. But you are exactly right, I need just wait to take those photos. The indoor, gloomy shots don’t do my quilts justice.
Your backdrop ideas are great. Thank you!
thanks for your tips! I need some to progress!!!
Little Quiltsong says
Thank you these tips – I needed them all :)!! I tend to take all my pictures in the basement – and as soon as the ‘project’ is done – so I have it documented – so yes, dark, yellowish pictures. I’m going to bookmark this page!
Jeannette Kitlan says
Thank you! Is it possible to have too much natural light?
Lisa Theis says
This is a great post! Thanks for always being so inspiring and such good teachers. The big question I have for you sweet ladies today is where did you find that fabulous blue chair??
Sandy Gilreath says
Great tips! Some of these I’ve learned by trial and error, others give me new strategies to practice.
Fantastic tips! Thanks for your advice. I too struggle with quilt photos and should probably follow step # 1 and actually read my camera manual.
Thank you. My biggest challenge is finding a place to hang my quilt to get that full quilt picture. Any suggestions?
Yes it is possible to have too much light. Artists prefer the hour or two around sunset and also first morning light to about 11 am.
Inside if it is too bright- try a north window or different time of day. We are so excited when we finish but take a look at your results. It is especially vexing if you already gave the quilt away and realize again no photo at all.
Also look at the light settings on your camera as sometimes those are adjusting to wrong colors. Flipping the settings and taking the same photo can give you a quick lesson on your favorite.
I have had SLR cameras but tend to use my Samsung phones for most of them these days. It is handy to catch that image.