Quilt photography can be a tricky thing. There's a lot to think about from lighting and scale down to the details of texture and color. Today on the blog I have a professional photographer to give us her 6 best tips on photographing a quilt. These expert tips are easily applicable to other craft projects and you don't need a fancy camera to pull them off.
Hannah Kelly, of Stitched & Found, has been a wedding photographer for ten years and as if that wasn't enough to keep her busy, she also scouts and sells vintage quilts. Since the beginning of her vintage quilt resale business four years ago, over 7,500 quilts have traveled through her hands and into the homes of thousands of families. Here's Hannah...
My knowledge and passion for taking photos in the wedding industry has carried over into selling and marketing beautiful antique quilts. Below are my top 6 quilt photography tips to help boost the quality of your photos. Whether you are using an expensive DSLR camera or your iPhone, you can begin working on improving the photos you take.
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Tip #1: Find Some Natural Light
The first quilt photography tip is also the most helpful – use natural light. Light is the critical element of a good photograph. When you walk through your home, do you notice the way light covers your walls? Do you notice how it reflects off the furniture?
Make it a practice of observing light in your home. Notice what time of day the light is most intense. Notice the angle of the light during different times of the day. In my living room, the mornings are the brightest, the middle of the day is the most even, and the evening is the darkest.
So, before you take your next photo, look around, be very intentional about where you place your subject in relation to the light. Allow the natural light to brighten your photo by letting the window light hit your subject. Or, place the window behind the subject to help brighten the surroundings.
Look out for those sunny days and take full advantage of them. If the light isn’t cooperating (overcast, rainy, night, etc.), it might be best to postpone the photoshoot.
The photos above were taken in the late morning in my living room using my camera. The sun shines brightly through the windows and lights the room well. Below is a shot from my iPhone. I did some simple editing on my phone, but I'll get to that in Tip #4.
Tip #2: Turn Off Ambient Light
Natural light is always your ally in quilt photography; overhead lights and lamps, however, not so much. I tend to turn all indoor lights off when I take indoor photos.
Artificial lights in your home can add different colored light to your photos. It can also add unwanted and unnatural shadows. So if you notice different color tones (why is that wall so warm and this table cooler?) landing on your subject, turn the light off!
This simple tip isn’t going to take your photos to another level, but it is important and should always be in the back of your mind. Just as you notice your natural light hitting different areas in your home throughout the day, also notice how your lamps/overhead lights affect color tones and shadows. You don’t want a warm overhead light changing the color of the fabrics in your quilt.
Take a look at the photos below. It’s subtle, but having the lamps and overhead lights on add shadows to the wall and adds a warm color cast to the first photo. I prefer the second photo with the lights turned off the to keep everything even.
However, this isn’t always a hard and fast rule, having the lights on can add a warm and cozy feel to your photo. How you use those lights (or don’t use them) will depend on the subject and mood of the photo.
Tip #3: Frame the Photo
Do you take the time to consider where you hold the camera or phone when taking a photo? Taking less than a moment to adjust your position can dramatically improve your photos.
For most photos, I tend to bring my camera even with the subject. I typically squat down where my camera is level with the quilt/subject. If you are taking a flat lay photo from above, make sure you are directly over the subject and that your camera is level. Try this simple photography tip next time you take a photo.
My son, Ollie, was posing with this quilt, so I squatted down quickly to get on his level.
Tip #4: Edit
Taking a photo of your quilt is just the first step in creating a beautiful image. After finding the best light and framing the photo correctly, my next quilt photography tip is time to edit. There are many apps out there for photo editing, but my personal favorite is Lightroom Mobile on my phone.
You can find *presets that match your style or create your own. For me, I bump up my exposure, add contrast, lighten my shadows, add some vibrance, correct my tint and white balance (try to look for white in the photo that you can get as close to true white as possible), and I play with the color sliders (mainly green/orange/red).
If you purchase presets, be careful that the color changes that are already pre-set don’t mess with the colors of your fabrics! You can apply a preset and then alter the colors, so even if a certain preset is washing out some colors or making an edit you don't like, you can alter them.
When advertising, you always want your colors to be true to life to not mislead your viewers. My favorite presets for purchase are:
These photos were taken on my iPhone, brought into Lightroom Mobile app, and quickly edited with a Veil Preset. The first shot is before editing and the second is after applying the preset.
BIG difference, right? Here's another before and after example...
*Presets are "pre-set" edits that can be uploaded to Lightroom on a desktop or Lightroom Mobile on a phone. Lightroom Mobile is a free app, but does have a paywall so you can't access every aspect of it in the free version. You can, however, still use purchased presets.
Once you purchase a preset, or bundle of presets, the seller will include instructions on how to upload them to your phone or computer. After they are uploaded you can professionally edit a photo with a single click. It's pretty cool!
Tip #5: Go Outside
When in doubt, go outside. You will find the best and most even light outside your home. Whether it is an overcast day or full sun, you can take the photos you need.
The most important quilt photography tip to remember is to always keep the sun behind your subject. If you keep the sun behind the subject you will have even light across whatever you are taking a photo of.
For those golden hour photos when the sun is at its best, shoot roughly an hour to 30 minutes before sunset. But don’t be afraid of the other times of day, find some shade and keep that sun behind you (even at high noon!)
The first two photos were taken at the same time, steps apart during the middle of a sunny day. To find the even light, I looked for the sun, put it behind me, and stepped into the shade. The first photo in the sun has harsh lighting with uneven shadows.
The next photos were taken at 7:45 PM (sunset at 8PM). I also placed the light behind me to allow the golden sun to glow around the quilt.
Tip #6: Practice
A very basic quilt photography tip, easily overlooked, but the most important: just keep shooting. It takes practice. You can’t wake up and be a professional or take photos like someone that has been shooting/practicing/mastering for years.
Photography is a skill that has to be honed and developed. If you are new, don’t compare your photos to mine, someone that has been a professional photographer for years. Just keep at it, you will get better, I promise.
If you start implementing these tips into your day to day life, you will begin to see an improvement in your photos. And not just quilt photos! These 6 tips are broad enough that you can apply them to anything and everything – photos of grandkids, pets and even food!
Just like with learning any new skill, ask questions! Ask someone with quality photos what is good/wrong with the photo you just shared (I love answering these!). Take a tip per week and really practice mastering that skill.
I took this first photo years ago. Everything about the second photo has improved: framing, lighting, and editing.
Just like any rule, photography rules can also be broken. The time of day, the space around you, and your subject can cause you to have to bend a rule. These quilt photography tips are meant to get you started. Remember, take your time, pause and examine your surroundings before clicking the shutter.
Do you already use any of these tips? I would love to hear which one is your favorite! Do you tend to take your quilts outside to photograph them or do you stay indoors? We would also love for you to share your quilt photos with us on Instagram using one (or all!) of these quilt photography tips.