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!
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.
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.
Quilt Design by: Char Maeda
Photography: Page + Pixel