01 February 2014

Photographing black or white quilts without losing texture

Maker unknown (via)
Some of my quilts are black-on-black and I've not had a lot of success with photographing them. The texture created by quilting gets lost, and the blackness looks very ... dark ... especially when there's very little of any other colour!

White-on-white quilts too can lose texture in photographs. Here are some tips from various places on the internet, which should help with photographing any sort of quilt, to bring out the texture - and to represent the work at its best. 

1. Start with a plain background that contrasts with the quilt's colour: dark grey or black background for white quilts, and a light, neutral background for dark quilts. 

2. Clips, fingers, etc must not be visible, and the quilt must not blow about (if you're shooting outside).

3. Use a tripod, and have the camera straight-on to the quilt. Zoom in a bit, to avoid "barrelling". If you are using manual settings on your camera, use a high aperture number (slow shutter speed), or f/11 and the lowest ISO possible. This avoids camera shake. A cable shutter release, or using the self timer, can be useful too - for any textile photography you want a sharp focus, without wobble.

4. Set up a raking light - the light should come almost straight from the side of the quilt, so that it skims across the surface. If you don't have a nice big patch of sunlight, or studio lighting, use a strong lamp, preferably with a daylight bulb.

5. Move the light source, or the quilt, so that shadows fall towards the camera, not away from it.

6. Use an ambient light source as well, eg an uplighter, if you're shooting inside and there's not enough background light.

7. Don't use flash! - it will flatten the shadows/texture.

8. If you're metering the exposure, you may need exposure compensation: decrease it for white fabrics and increase it for dark fabrics. Exposure can be adjusted on some automatic cameras too; try taking several photos at various exposures.

9. Check the white balance on the camera before taking your photos, or fix it afterwards in a photo editing program. You want to represent the actual colours.

10. If unwanted threads or lint found their way unnoticed onto the quilt, use the spot removal tool in the editing program to remove them.

Further suggestions are very welcome - what has worked for you?

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