Quilt Photography: 5 Tips to Improve

Page Content: 

It’s true.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Especially when those pictures are your quilts.

Photographing your work is often tricky, but it’s important to document. You need clean and clear pictures for your blog, social media, and when entering your work in competitions, such as QuiltCon.

There’s no doubt, photography is a talent, and with the four tips below, you can enhance your photography skills for capturing your own work. And the most important thing: you don’t need a fancy camera! You can use a point and shoot style camera or even your cellphone (I recommend the IPhone 6 or better) to photograph your awesome work!

4 Tips for Enhancing Your Photography Skills:

  • Planning
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Photographing

Photo by Christopher Thompson, The Tattooed Quilter

1. Planning.

Capturing your work requires a lot of planning.

From thinking about where to photograph, to removing any loose threads, it’s important to collect everything you need upfront.

  1. Iron or steam out your quilt prior to photography.
  2. Remove any loose threads with a lint roller.
  3. Purchase heavy-duty masking tape or binder clips for hanging your quilt.
  4. Purchase and use white foam board for small to medium quilts. You can purchase this for less than $20 at your local office supply store. It’s also great to use when capturing styled subjects such as in-progress photographs of your work.
  5. Decide where you’ll photograph your quilt. Be creative!

Photo by Sylvia Schaefer, Flying Parrot Quilts

2. Lighting.

The best light to use for capturing your work is bright, natural light, a.k.a. the sunlight. But if you need to photograph indoors, use a room with lots of windows—hanging your quilt on an empty white wall where the natural light shines directly on your quilt. Natural light can also be tricky and depending on the time of day/season, it could drastically change the colors of your work.

If you don’t want to take the risk, you can purchase daylight energy efficient light bulbs and a durable clamp-on reflector lamp to use indoors.

Photo by Christopher Thompson, The Tattooed Quilter

3. Composition.

Whether you’re photographing outdoors or indoors chose the composition or setting that best shows off your work.

When photographing outdoors, use white brick or cement walls, fences, or benches as your backgrounds. Binder clips can be used to attach your work to fences. Heavy-duty masking tape can be used to attached mini to small size quilts to brick and cement walls.

When photographing indoors, use a blank white wall as your background. You can attach a hanging rod to a wall in your basement or garage to hang your work. With this method, you will want to purchase daylight energy efficient light bulbs and two durable clamp-on reflector lamps, placing them adjacent to the left and right of you while photographing. If the lamps are too close, they will create hot spots that could change the colors of your work.

No matter where you chose to photograph your work, keep it neutral. A background that is distracting could take away from your work. Your background should support and compliment your work. And avoid having someone hold your quilt--hands and shoes are distracting and take away from your beautiful work.

Remember, be creative, but don’t let the background outshine your work! Most competitions will require you to submit a flat shot of your work, so keep that in mind too. (Photo above right by Christine Ricks)

4. Photographing.

Now you’re ready to photograph. Don’t be nervous. You got this!

Make sure you photograph your work straight on. Center your camera with your work and photograph. If you hold your camera at an angle, your work will appear distorted. Another way your work will appear distorted is if you photograph it on the floor. Unless you have the proper equipment, photograph your work hanging.

Whether photographing outdoors or indoors, photograph without the flash. This will prevent adding additional unnecessary light on your work.

Capturing details is important. From the quilting, to the binding you can never have too many photographs of your work. Additional photographs will give you more options for your blogs, social media, or when entering your work into competitions.

And, after this, you’re still nervous, hire a professional. We have lots of professional photographers in the Modern Quilt Guild like Lauren Hunt and Nydia Kehnle. (Photo above right by Stacey Lee O'Malley)

Photo by Kari Vojtechovsky

5. Finishing.

You’ve photographed your work, now what?

You want to make sure that you save your photographs, labeling them with the work title and possibly the date. For example, modern_bars_12_16 and always save them as a jpeg.

Grab your latest work and your camera and document your history as a maker!


Rainbow quilt images by Stacey Lee O'Malley

About the Author

Hailing from a small town in Virginia, Christopher has lived in several cities from Atlanta to San Francisco and now NYC. Although he grew up in a traditional quilting family, he discovered the modern quilting moving a couple of years ago and honestly, it’s been on his mind non-stop! He works in the fashion industry during the day and spends late nights and weekends creating interesting quilts inspired by the world around him — art, music, and fashion.