Photographing Your Quilts

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Eliminate distractions

Hang your quilt on an appropriate backdrop. A solid colored wall works well. Remember to secure the top so that it is straight and so that fingers, pins, or clothespins do not show. Placing your quilt on a bed may be okay for one of your documentation pictures, but it should not be the only picture of the quilt that you have. A picture of yourself with your quilt is nice to add to your journal, but again, it should not be the only picture you have of your quilt. Make sure your whole quilt is in at least one of your pictures.

Make sure your quilt will look straight

Stand directly in front of your quilt and focus on the exact center. If you take a picture from the side or too high or low, your quilt will look distorted or crooked.

If possible, take the picture outside

If you do not have professional lighting, the lighting outside is often the best and easiest, but be aware of the wind blowing the edges of your quilt so they do not look straight. Choose a day that is lightly overcast or pick an area that is in “open shade.” A photographer defines open shade as not direct sunlight, but daylight reflected from a clear sky. Direct sunlight can be very harsh which distorts details and washes out colors. Avoid heavily overcast days.

Use the right film

Consider using ISO 200 film. This film can show details better. Hold the camera very still. If possible, use a tripod.

Take more than one picture

Take a minimum of three pictures: one picture that shows the entire quilt and two detail shots. One of the detail shots should be of the center of the quilt and one should be of a corner. Taking more than three pictures is better. Include a photo of the label, the backing, the quilting from the backside, any personalization, and any unusual features. If you fold one corner up, you could also get a good detail picture of the front and the back at the same time.

Try to take some very close detail pictures

If you have a camera that you can focus yourself, try to take some very close pictures that show the stitching and details. If you have a zoom camera, you may be able to stand a little further away and zoom into specific details.

Keep fabric swatches with your pictures

Keep scraps of some of your main fabrics with the pictures. Colors in photos can sometimes change over time. An extra bonus is that if these scraps are at least as large as the biggest piece in your blocks, these scraps could be used to repair your quilt if necessary.

Don’t release your quilt into someone else’s care until you know you have good pictures

Make sure your pictures are successfully developed before you allow your quilt to leave your possession. 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.

Digital images are a nice back-up to traditional photographs

If you have access to a digital camera, you will be able to instantly see what the finished picture will look like. You can then save that image or delete it and take another picture. If you need your pictures for display on a computer, many photo processors can now provide your pictures in digital format. You can also scan them yourself if you have access to a scanner. This option will give you the opportunity to adjust the exposure and coloring. The JPG file format will use the least amount of disk space, but other file formats can easily be converted later, if needed.