With QuiltCon fast approaching we’re hoping you’re planning to enter a quilt in the QuiltCon quilt show. Entering a quilt is a simple process, but it is important to make sure your quilt is shown in its best light so that it has a good chance of being juried into the show. A beautiful quilt can be overlooked in the jurying process if it is not well photographed. We wanted to share some tips that we’ve found useful that only require what you probably have at home, no expensive, special equipment or set ups.
The first thing to remember is this is not about the scenery surrounding your quilt, it is about the quilt itself. The QuiltCon show entry asks for one flat shot of the whole quilt and one close up. The jurors want to be able to see the whole quilt with no distractions and they want to see a close up shot so that they can see your construction and the quilting. It’s important to hang rather than drape your quilt when you photograph it. With a little effort you can have a photo that will make your quilt shine!
Start with a quilt that is photo ready. Make sure your quilt is finished, clean, and free from wrinkles. You can steam or iron your quilt or hang your quilt and let the wrinkles disappear naturally. A light misting of water will help release stubborn wrinkles. Take time to inspect your quilt. Trim any stray threads and use a lint brush to remove any lint.
These are a few common household items that can be used for hanging your quilt. Binder clips or clothespins can be used to attach your quilt to the gutter of your house or anything in your house that you can clip to. Wood molding (available at your home store) or inexpensive curtain rods can be use to hang quilts that have sleeves and even simple push pins can be use to hang a quilt on a wall. Discarded sewing machine needles also make great nails for quilt hanging and they make only tiny holes in the wall. Be sure to use a hammer if you’re using needles. Pants hangers also work to hang quilts. Large, heavy quilts will need multiple hangers.
Command hooks are also useful for hanging. I like these with the metal hook. Place hooks on a wall at intervals and use them to hang rods or hook pants hangers to them. They can be easily removed and leave no marks on the wall.
But I don’t have a fancy camera, what do I do? Use the camera you have and follow these simple guidelines and you should be able to take a quality photo of your quilt. If you have a tripod, that’s a bonus. Clear, non blurry photos are always best and a tripod will help you achieve those. If you don’t have a tripod, no worries, you’ll just need a steady hand!
Where should I hang my quilt? Since most of us don’t have access to a professional studio, we have to make do with our homes, apartments or yards. Depending on the space you have available, you may have to be creative. A large area of blank wall in a room that has nice daylight (not glaring sunlight) is ideal. You will also need room to step back from the quilt so that you can get far enough away to get the whole quilt in the photograph. Don’t be shy about moving furniture, or taking down pictures to create hanging space. It’s only a few minutes and it will be worth the effort to get the right location. Outdoors works too. We’ve seen quilts hung from garage gutters, from railings, from clotheslines. Some quilters use their design wall to hang their quilt for photography. If your design wall is portable you may be able to take it outside for a photo shoot. Be creative and work to find a location that is free from clutter and distractions. If you can, remove anything that might be in your way.
This is my photography wall. I can do both large and small quilts here. I pin small quilts to the wall and large quilts either get clipped to the rod, or I put the wood rod through the sleeve and hook the rod over the two pushpins in the wall.
Lighting can be tricky since we’re not professional photographers and most of us don’t have special lighting equipment. Natural light is best if it’s possible. Try to avoid bright sunlight because it can wash out the colors of your quilt. A slightly overcast day is perfect. Beware of shadows. You’ll notice in my wall space above that the television is blocking light from the window and is creating a shadow on the wall. Before I photograph a quilt, I’ll move that out of the way so the light is more evenly distributed.
I’ve also found this Velux light at Costco for about $30.00. It’s supposed to help people with seasonal affective disorder, but it’s daylight in a small package and I’ve found that I can use it to light up my quilt. I usually have my husband hold it and move it around until I get a nice even light across the quilt. I use it to eliminate shadows if there are any.
Once you have your quilt hung, have the best lighting you can get, and have eliminated distractions, you’re ready to take some pictures. Measure, find and mark the center of your quilt. If you have a tripod, adjust the height of your tripod so the lens of your camera is at the same height as the center of your quilt.
If you don’t have a tripod you will have to place your camera at the correct height. If the center of you quilt is 48″ from the floor, that is where you want the lens of your camera to be. You can estimate or have a friend measure for you while you are getting set.
Look through your viewfinder and step back until you can get the whole quilt in the picture with a minimum of space around it. The more you can center the quilt in the shot the better. Take a couple of test shots. Check them out and then make any adjustments needed. Your shot doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to show the quilt as straight on as possible, it needs to be clear and with as few distractions as possible (fingers, toes, light switches, or dirty laundry in the background). Take lots of pictures so you have many to choose from. Photographers take hundreds of shots to get the best one.
This is the picture I took of my Tipsy City quilt. The quilt is pretty straight and flat with no distractions in the background, but it would have helped if I would have remembered to remove the pin that marked the center, but you get the idea.
Remember that the entry also asks for a detail shot of your quilt. Choose your detail shot thoughtfully. If there is a special feature or an interesting detail you’d like to showcase be sure to include that in your detail photo. Make sure you photograph what you want the jury to see.
We’re excited about the show and can’t wait to see your quilts. If you have any additional ideas or tips for photographing quilts for the show, please feel free to share them in the comments.
Thanks for a very informative post!
This is a very helpful post. Photographs can really make or break how a quilt is perceived.
I like it with the safety pin!!!
The question I always have is on the close-up. How large an area should that entail? 10″? 15″?
Hi Jan! It depends on what you’re trying to feature in the close up. A quilting detail, for example, might need to be shot very tightly… but perhaps a featured portion of piecing is a bit bigger and needs to be shot a bit wider. Decide what you’d like to show us in the close up, and from there decide how to best frame it.
Do you have any suggestions for photographing a quilt where most of the quilt is black (Kona black)? My quilt looks awful in photographs.
That’s a tough one! Good lighting is the key to get true colors. If you don’t have the means indoors, shoot it outside in good daylight, but with out any direct sun on the quilt. Good luck!
When your intention is to wash a quilt to achieve the “wrinkled effect” – would you do this before or after photography/exhibiting?
Hi Suzanne, It depends on if you want that texture to be part of what people see with your quilt. If you think it should be, wash it first… if you think you’d rather people see the quilt with a smoother look, wait until after the fact. Thanks!
This is very helpful and will help me correct the lighting and have a straight quilt in the picture.