photography / tutorials

Taking Photos

The other day someone left this comment on a photo of a recently finished quilt that I was setting up to photograph that I posted on Instagram: “I would like to enter a quilt one day in a competition but the photography requirements scare me”

My response to them was that they shouldn’t let photos hold them back and that they IMG_4196.jpgcould always have a photographer take them.  But the comment has stuck with me for several days now because it makes me a little sad that there are quilters out there who are not entering their work because they are overwhelmed by being able to deal with the photography requirements.  So I thought I would write a blog post about taking and resizing photographs for submission to see if it might help some of you out there who are struggling with this.  If you decide that you just don’t want to go to the trouble of taking your own photos then find a photographer in your area that can shoot it for you.  There have been times when I have hired someone to shoot one of my quilts for me because I just couldn’t get a photo I liked and I wrote about that here.  Make sure you bring the photo requirements for the exhibit that you want to submit to with you and give them to the photographer you hire so that they will know what size files to provide you with.

Lets say you want to submit to an exhibit and the photo requirements say something like this: Submit one overall digital image and one detail digital image for each piece of artwork. Digital images must be saved as a high quality JPEG file (No TIFF files).
Finished images should be at least 2400 pixels on the longest side but no larger than 3000 pixels.

The first step is to take a photograph of your quilt.  Don’t skimp on this step please!  I wrote a series of posts for the MARI SAQA regional blog here that you might find helpful photographer-868106_1920for setting up and photographing your quilt.  Lyric Kinard has a great post on the subject here,  Sarah Ann Smith has one here and Susan Brubaker Knapp talks about photographing her artwork here.  Regardless of what kind of camera you are using you should make sure that it is set to take the photo at the highest resolution possible and you will have to look at your cameras manual to determine how to do that.  After you have taken the photograph you should download it to your computer and again you will have to look at your camera manual to determine how to do that.  I am working with an older Canon Rebel so in order to move the photos from the camera to my Mac I have to connect using a cable but some newer cameras have wireless technology built into them.  In some cases you might be able to just remove the card from the camera and plug it into your computer.  Check your camera manual.

Now that you have your photo on your computer you can use a photo editing software to open it, edit/crop it and resize it.  Most cameras come with some basic photo editing software and there are a ton of others that you can buy.  Adobe Photoshop is probably the most popular but I find it much more than I need and the yearly subscription cost for it is way more than I am willing to spend.  I recently purchased a program called Pixelmator and its pretty easy to use.  There are plenty of free online programs you can use as well.  This one by Fotor is really easy to use and you will just need to sign up for a free account which took me all of 1 minute to do.  It allows you to crop, rotate and do some other basic editing to your photos which you should always do before you resize.   As an example, to resize my Art Quilter quilt photo to meet the requirements above I just uploaded it to Fotor and selected the resize option.


Right now the photo is 3267 x 2939 pixels.  The requirements state that the photo should be at least 2400 but no larger than 3000 pixels on the longest side.  My photo is 3267 on the longest side so I need to change that.  easy enough to do….


I just change that largest number to 2400 which automatically changes the other side dimension and now all I have to do is hit the apply button,  save the photo to my computer and I am ready to submit it to the call for art.  Easy!

Fotor is just one free easy to use photo editor that I found.  There are lots more easily found by doing a google search.  I hope that seeing how simple and fast it is to resize a photo will make it easier for those of you intimidated by photo requirements to give it a try.

Here are some additional online resources for more information about taking photographs of your quilts:

Here is a blog post that I wrote about the 3 books that I have learned an incredible amount from on photographing my own artwork.

Holly Knott has an very comprehensive series of articles on her website about taking photographs of quilts:

The Bernina We All Sew blog has a series of posts by Kerby Smith on how to take great photos of quilts:
part 1:
part 2:

There’s some helpful information on the Modern Quilt Guild website:

The International Quilt Association has some tips for quilt photography: 

8 thoughts on “Taking Photos

  1. Pingback: Getting your work out there |

  2. Nice article, Sue. I am very lucky to have a savvy, semi-pro photographer husband, but your thoughts and collection of links even included some ideas we had not thought of. I am curious how you shoot your “detail” shots. Three questions: how do you decide WHICH detail is the one you want to feature in a submission? Do you do anything different when shooting a detail? Do you stick to what some suggest,12″ area, or tailor the detail area to match a feature of the quilt? I sense another post coming on here…


  3. I am another terrified soul. Often my daughter (a skilled amateur photographer whose work has been published) can do my photos, but she lives 1 1/2 hours’ drive away and isn’t always available. I live in the Middle of Nowhere, and even if I lived in a city, can’t afford a pro photographer. I am a ‘point & click’ person; I’ve taken Photoshop classes three times and fell asleep in the midst of them, bored to tears with the technicalities. I live in a small house, and my latest challenge has been trying to photograph a 30″ x 72″ piece — just to find a wall that would work! — for a looming deadline. I know how to resize photos and have some decent lights…but I refuse to invest in a tri-pod for a Canon SureShot camera, when I know I’d only use the tripod once in a blue moon for entering a show. Instead I try to make my camera do the work (anti-shake etc) for me…but I worry it’s not enough. Sigh.


    • Margaret there are a lot of really inexpensive tripods out there that will cost less than $50 and it really will make a difference – you might even be able to get a really cheap used one. But you could also try improvising by putting your camera on top of a chair or tall stool stacked with books to give you some height. It may help stabilize the camera a bit – even the best image stabilization can only do so much and it won’t hurt to try it.


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