Photographing Your Quilt Art: It's All in the Angles

28 Nov 2011

quilt art jamie fingal
The lighting on this quilt art by Jamie Fingal
highlights the stitching and metal elements.
pokey boltonAs someone who has been looking at quilt art and photos of quilters' art for more than a decade, I can tell you that it's not that easy to get good pictures of fabric and fiber.

A wall quilt, even an embellished one, tends to look flat in photographs. A lot of that delicious texture we love so much gets lost among the pixels.

Another problem is color. Photo flashes and poor ambient lighting can alter the hue and intensity of the colors. Flashes wash the color out and electric lighting can add unintended cool or warm undertones.

In Quilting Arts Magazine, we solve these problems by hiring professional photographers who have tons of special equipment.

But if you are photographing your own fiber art to submit to quilting contests, a gallery, or a publication, or you are selling your art online, you probably don't have access to this kind of paraphernalia.

quilt art ellen anne eddy
Light bounces off this embroidered quilt art by
Ellen Anne Eddy, revealing the textured stitching.
Fortunately, there are some tricks of the trade that can help you, even if you're photographing your work at home. And you don't need much, if any, special gear.

Here are some tips specific to shooting fabric-based art, from The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos: The Best Techniques for Showcasing Your Handmade Creations, by Heidi Adnum.

  • To show the detail and texture of fabric, choose one soft light source that enters the shot at an angle to your product, anywhere from 0 to 45 degrees.
  • You can use an artificial light or off-camera flash positioned on the table near your product, or sunlight when the sun has started to set and isn't any higher than 45 degrees from the horizon. If your light source is too high, there won't be enough shadow to show fine detail. This is one of the main reasons why a direct flash flattens a photograph.
  • In addition, point your camera lens at an angle to your product. Shooting from an angle can capture the effect of the light and shadows on the fabric at its best.
  • Using a camera angle such as this for your composition also helps to fill the frame with only your artwork, without any distractions. However, if you want to show the scale of your work, photograph it with some of your tools like thread spools, a tape measure, or with an item where your product will be used (like a pillow on a sofa or a wall hanging above a sideboard).

The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos also includes advice on choosing appropriate backgrounds to tell the story of your art and help it sell better; how to choose a camera and other equipment; and how to size, alter, and catalog your photos. It's a great resource for any artist.


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