Saturday, August 9, 2014

let's talk photography...

Way back when, a long time ago, when I started my artistic journey I had a big clunky digital camera that actually wrote to 3 1/4" floppy discs!  By today's digital camera standards it took terrible photos but at the time 15 years ago it was cutting edge.  I used to to take photos for all my online class materials and to photograph my artwork.  I knew next to nothing about photography back then and when I look back most of my photos are dark, blurry and the colors are definitely off.  I replace that camera eventually with a nice Canon Rebel and started to get much more interested in photography because my camera took much better photos and photo editing software was getting much easier to navigate.  I was also starting to submit my work to shows, exhibits and magazines so I needed to know how to take a great photo.  Fast forward to 2011 and I signed a book contract with Potter Craft to write my first book "The Sketchbook Challenge".   I was given a very short 4 months to write it and on top of that, it was up to me to handle all the photography because Potter Craft didn't supply any photographic support.  There was precious little time to write the book, create the artwork and then try to find, interview and hire a photographer so I decided I would do all the photography for the book myself.   I gave myself a crash course in how to photograph artwork and there were three books that taught me everything I needed to know:

This book by Steve Meltzer is a fantastic resource for learning how to photograph artwork.    It appears to be out of print but it's worth tracking down a used copy or checking with your library to get a copy.  

Another excellent resource is Gloria Hansen's book "Digital Essentials"

This book is packed with just about everything you need to know about taking and working with digital images of your quilts.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are taking your own photos of your quilts to submit to juried shows.  Click here to order a copy.

You can't take a good photograph without good lighting:

  Digital Photography Lighting for Dummies is an excellent resource for learning about effective lighting and  lighting equipment.

I cannot stress this enough - using a smart phone or table to take a photo of your quilt to submit it for jurying to a quilt or art show is not appropriate!  I love my Iphone, I carry it everywhere and I take a lot of photos with it BUT I would never use it to create a digital image to submit my work to a show, magazine or a portfolio.   You don't have to spend weeks and months of your life studying photography but you should learn the basics so that when you submit a photo to a show you can be confident that it is a true representation of your work.  Take the time to learn how to use your digital camera and some basic photo editing software.   Start with these books I recommend above and you'll be glad you did!


  1. Thanks, Sue, for the info and resources. I attended the photography session at this past SAQA Conference and the teacher emphasized the importance of getting to know your camera. A crucial thing to do is to read the manual. He also mentioned that you want to photograph a quilt accurately. Most professional photographers will photograph to enhance the appearance of their subject. That's not what you want in this case! You want realism. I do fairly well with my little point-and-shoot on a tripod with special lighting but nothing can compare with an SLR camera such as Sue's Canon Rebel.

    1. I agree, the first step is to read the manual that comes with your camera. I'm not suggesting that anybody use photo software to alter the actual appearance of their quilts but I think it's important to understand how to straighten, crop and adjust for innacurate lighting. Point and shoot cameras have gotten very sophisticated with how they work and take photos and when used with good lighting can take gorgeous photographs.

  2. You are SO spot on!! This needs to go out to all the regions! Just say no to your cellphone for entry photos