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I bet you’ve heard this before: great photos of your work is so important. Why, you say? Because a bad photo can eliminate your work even if it’s a great piece and perfect for the show. After all, your images are all the jurors have to judge your work. But how do you get those great photos, and once you have them, what do you do with them?
Let me back track and give you some ancient history- just for fun. Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I first starting entering shows, we had to take slides and send in real slides of the work. Which meant you had to take a jillion pictures just to get a few that were the right exposure. And of course there was no screen to see what you were getting, like we have today with digital cameras. Eventually, with digital cameras, we could burn the pictures onto a CD and send those in instead. Which was great, except it was still all snail mail.
Now everything is online: the entry form, the place to upload your digital pictures, etc. No stamps needed. So, you see, today the process is easier, faster and cheaper.
So now, let’s briefly go over how you get those photos.
Set Your Studio Up for Photography
First, you need a design wall. I bought 3/4″ insulation board at Home Depot and had them cut it into pieces so I could get it in my car. Then I bought some light grey felt and pinned to the pieces of board, nice and taut. I chose the light grey because it makes a great neutral background for taking pictures of my work. I then used some Velcro Command strips to attach the boards in a row on my wall by butting them together.
Design panels on wall
Back of panel
Wall with command strip
Now, pin your quilt to your securely to the design wall with small pins without heads that will show.
Next, you must have a good working digital camera, tripod and lighting. The reason for the tripod is to eliminate any shaking of the camera, resulting in fuzzy images. I generally set up my tripod with camera on top, and center the view finder in the middle of the quilt. You need to have all finished sides visible. You can use your cropping tool in your photo editing software to crop your image showing the edge and a bit of the background. Make sure in your view finder you are not keystoning your quilt. The edges must be square and parallel.
Set your camera to take the highest resolution pictures it will take. This is important. You can always make your files smaller, but not larger. So start large and adjust later.
Lighting your quilt can be tricky. I generally shoot on a bright day in a room with some good natural light. I add some small OTT lights set up on tables shining at 45 degree angles to the wall. You are aiming for even lighting overall, and no areas that are “hot” or lit more than other areas. I also have some halogen lights installed above my design wall that are pointing up at the ceiling so as to diffuse the light. Take several full views and several close up shots of interesting areas. You can take the close ups by moving your tripod closer, and/or zooming in. Watch out for pet hair, and threads on these close ups.
Full view of piece (don’t add the writing like I did!)
Once you are happy with your shots, you can transfer them to your computer using a USB cord or whatever comes with your camera. Lastly, you will be looking at your shots on your computer screen and editing them for color, brightness and size to ready them for the show.
Generally, once you get the instructions for entering your show, show organizers will tell you what what size digital files they want. This is important to follow their instructions. They will often say something like, make your files 1950 pixels on the longest side. If you’ve shot your piece at the largest resolution, you will generally be reducing your file. Make a duplicate of that file and adjust that one for the show. Keep your originals intact. Here are some resources for adjusting your image files:
Ways to resize your image:
On Your Mac ( I use Preview, itʼs super easy, but only for Macs)
For more info and details about the process go to:
Quilts, Inc.ʼs guidelines on Lighting, background, cropping and other resources : http://www.quilts.com/home/contests/
And this is a great basic article on Artsy Shark
Next week, I will be going over how to ready and ship your quilt, because you took those awesome images, and got your quilt into the big show!!
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Roxane is a full time studio textile artist, teacher, and author, with two girls, who are both growing up too fast! She recently appeared on Quilting Arts TV, and has taught at the Houston quilt show. She is also a BERNINA ambassador. Her work is in several private collections and she loves doing custom commissions. For more info go to http://roxanelessa.com.
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