Quilt Photography

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Think of the advantages we have over quilters a hundred years ago. We have quilt books galore, a mind boggling array of fabrics, and terrific quilt teachers. Best of all, we have thousands of pictures of quilts, both antique and current, which we can study and be inspired by. It’s time for your quilts to be included in that number! I am not an expert photographer, but I want to share some of basics of quilt photography.

First, take pictures of your quilt while it is being made. These can also help you make design decisions that will improve your quilt. Then, take pictures as soon as you are done with the quilt. A picture of your quilt on a bed is nice for your photo album, but it should not be the only picture you take. Get a really good picture of your entire quilt.

Outside lighting is usually easiest for the amateur. Choose a day that is lightly overcast and a place that is not in direct sunlight, which will wash out the colors. Consider using ISO 200 film and a tripod to capture details. Make sure the quilt is straight and flat against the wall and the wind is not blowing up a corner. Hang carefully so fingers, pins or clothespins are not showing. At least one picture should show the whole quilt. Aim the camera at the exact center of the quilt to minimize distortion. Then take a few close-ups of the unique details. A picture of the quilt maker in front of her quilt is also a wonderful picture to include in the documentation folder. When you are done photographing the front, turn the quilt over and photograph the back where the quilting patterns may show up better. Include a close-up of the label.

After the pictures are developed, examine them. A good picture will show the true colors, not too light or too dark. It will be sharp and clear.  It will show the entire quilt. Be sure to put several pictures in your documentation folder. Keep a few scraps of your main fabrics with them since the colors on photos may change over time.

Digital cameras let you instantly see what the finished picture will look like. You can save the image or delete it and take another picture. If you want pictures for display on a computer, many photo processors can now provide your pictures on a CD or you can scan prints yourself. Digital quilt pictures are great to use as background wall paper on your computer. There are also programs that let you use your digital quilt photos as a screen saver.

Quilts and photographs are natural companions. Wouldn’t it be fun to make postcards of your own quilts just like the ones sold at the American Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky? Christmas quilts could be used as unique Christmas cards. How about a professional portrait of you and your family with your masterpiece quilt as the backdrop? Don’t forget that Mom will love a few copies so she can brag about you and send one to her sister whose daughter doesn’t quilt.

Now is the perfect time to get out your camera and photograph all your quilts. So, say "cheese" and start snapping those pictures.

Article originally published July 2000

© 2000, Maria Elkins