quilt photography

Quilting on White Fabric // SEWTOPIA CHALLENGE WINNER PHOTO

Photographing a quilt is one of the more difficult things I’ve encountered in my photography career. It’s also one of the reasons I love my job - the challenge - ensuring the quilt is evenly lit, making sure the colors are true/fabrics are represented, and that we accurately capture what makes the work special - is something I really enjoy.

I shot this quilt for Char Maeda, one of the Milwaukee Sewtopia Michael Miller Challenge winners. Isn’t this quilt fantastic?! The color and pattern combinations, the shapes created from the improv blocks, and absolutely stunning quilting.

PHOTOGRAPHING A WHITE QUILT can be quite daunting; there is less margin for error in a lot of ways. The lighting you use must be carefully placed because with white, anything bouncing (like the color of a wall, a piece of furniture, even a shade of white wall bouncing light from the window first before it hits the quilt) will reflect on to the white fabric. It’s also very easy - especially when you’re trying really hard to control the quality of light - to over or underexpose the white fabric while trying to properly light the colored fabrics alongside it.

Here are a few tips to get you started on photographing your own white quilt!

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USE THE BIGGEST, SOFTEST LIGHT SOURCE YOU CAN FIND. The bigger the light, the less chance for falloff and reflection of color. Soft light keeps the shadows along the quilting prominent but understated. Ideally, the light source is as big as the quilt is. That means, if you’re using a window to light it indoors, opt for the biggest window or use a big modifier (like a scrim) placed in front of the window

KEEP YOUR SHOOTING AREA AS WHITE AS POSSIBLE. Flooring, colored walls, anything that isn’t white and is bouncing light in your shot can and will reflect color back on to your white quilt and make it look dingy or weird.

KEEP WHITE FOAMCORE AROUND FOR BOUNCING. You won’t always be able to get the biggest light source, and you won’t always be able to be in a white room with nothing of any color nearby to reflect. This is why I keep lots of 30x20 white foamcore boards from the art supply store around - they’re perfect for putting in front of furniture or on top of flooring that is reflecting color we don’t want. They’re like $3 each and endlessly useful!

SHOOT WITH THE QUILT AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE FROM THE LIGHT AND USE A BOUNCE TO FILL. Sometimes with quilts that are all colored fabrics, I can get away with a simple 45 degree angled light - what you should be doing for every quilt you photograph - without having to bounce on the opposite side. I don’t recommend this for white - because the amount of light falloff between your light source and the “dark” side of the quilt is enough in most simple home lighting scenarios to cause a pretty significant visual difference. It’s very easy to use something large and white - foam core board or even a white sheet - just to bounce the light slightly and fill in the shadows. This will help you to get beautiful, defined quilting but also to bring in light and reduce the amount of color correcting you’ll have to do on the white fabric.

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Finally, enjoy the challenge! I love shooting quilts that give me a little bit of a struggle - because I learn something new every time. Play around, try things, and if you get a little stuck, make sure to ask for help in the Page + Pixel Photo School group on Facebook.

+ Nissa

Quilt Design by: Char Maeda
Photography: Page + Pixel

Nice Kern-Job

The thing about design is that it’s not always noticeable. We designers are in the background agonizing over things like a fonts point-size so that books are readable; left, center or right-aligned text; 95% black or 100% for the running font; making sure the footer text isn’t too close to the trim or too close to the text. But really, what sucks up most of our time is kerning.

Ahhhh! Kerning: the space in between the letters. The spaces that nobody notices, until they do.

I like to think that one of the most important parts of a designer’s job is to keep people focused on the task at hand by cleaning up, removing or adding, and making an experience feel beautiful and seamless. If a book or a space or a product gives you an easy, calm feeling, it is because of design (and there is probably some decent kerning going on).

Here’s a quick example of how I spent a good 20 minutes of my time as I was laying out the pages for Inspiring Improv by Nicholas Ball for Lucky Spool.

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This is a looooovely image, isn’t it? Nick had the brilliant idea of taping all of his improv blocks up on the wall in color order. So pretty. I just want to keep my eyes moving amongst all of those inspiring blocks, but my eye gets pulled down to the bottom left of the page, right to that ragged line of text. What a bummer! Maybe it’s just me? But I couldn’t leave the page that way, so I justified the text, giving it a nice clean edge.

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Ok, that’s a little better, at least I’m not attracted to the last line of the paragraph jutting out anymore! But now I’m distracted by how the text has a bunch of space between the words and letters in the first few sentences and then gets really bunched towards the end of the paragraph. AND I don’t like how close the last line is to the page number. Jeez Louise, I drive myself nuts!

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There we go. So after spending a little time adjusting space between the words (tracking) and the individual letters (kerning), I’ve got the text to a nice, tidy block of unassuming text.

But I’ll be honest: now that I’ve spent some time writing up this post, I have grown fond of the ragged edge from the first image. The ragged edge does make sense with this particular image in that it feels organic and fluid, much like the improvisational blocks. That brings us to a different conundrum that book designers face: consistency. This is just one opener from the book, there are a few. As the designer, I was tasked with selecting the best design solution for the book as a whole, not for one spread at a time. In the end, the author and I decided that the justified text for the openers was the most successful choice for the overall design.

Welcome to the inside of my brain which is a constant back and forth of what-if’s and yeah-but’s!

What sorts of nitty-gritty does your job get you into?

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Kristy

Inspiring Piecing
Book Design + Style Photography: Page + Pixel
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
Author: Nicholas Ball

FBF // Serendipitous Natural Light

One of the first projects Nissa and I worked on together as Page + Pixel was shooting the style photography for Amy Gibson’s Quilt Block Cookbook for Lucky Spool. It was a big project with loads of bird’s eye/layflat shots and Nissa and I wanted to add some variety to the images somehow. Susanne—publisher and editor for Lucky Spool—had a vision of a person holding up the quilt blocks so we went ahead with that cute concept.

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It was one of those perfectly-overcast-but-not-too-overcast days and Nissa positioned us perpendicular to the floor-to-ceiling windows. This gave us some warm yet diffused autumn light. We were so excited by the natural shadow and depth that came through! Not only were we able to capture Amy’s impeccable fabric combinations, but the diffused side light allowed her beautiful block construction to be seen through the fabric. Perfect for this book full of block recipes!

Can’t go wrong when skill and serendipity are in sync.

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What are some of your favorite serendipitous photography moments?

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Kristy

Quilt Block Cookbook
Style Photography: Page + Pixel
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
Author: Amy Gibson