Photography Tips for Textile Artists

I get a lot of questions and compliments about my photography. So I finally decided to write a post about my supplies and photography tips for textile artists.

Believe it or not, I didn’t start out this way. There was a time when I didn’t trust my own photography skills and so I hired professional help. You may also need to hire professional help until such a time when you’ve developed your own strong photo skills.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists

I’ve always loved the camera. I saw it hanging around my dad’s neck very often as he traveled the world installing and fixing mainframe computers for multinational companies. When he got off an airplane and you hugged him, you’ll feel his camera sticking into your chest. When I was a little girly, my first camera and wristwatch were my most prized tech possessions. However, I never did quite learn how to do much with a camera than to take random family photos.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists
Photography Gear for Textile Artists

Fast forward to a few years back when I got into textile arts. I quickly learned that photography is very important. I need great photos to show my work to prospective buyers, for entry into exhibitions, and for running a successful blog.

So, I spent time learning about photography, I took classes and spent money on supplies. Money spent by textile artists in learning and buying supplies for photography is money well spent. I can attribute a lot of my success in being able to get my work into exhibitions to having great photos. These days, most calls for entry are based on digital images only. Also, being able to take good photos has helped me write engaging blog posts and create beautiful photo-illustrated e-books for my blog followers.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists: Gear

When I started taking photos of my artwork, I owned a Canon T1i so I just used what I had. Cell phone photography may be okay for posting on the web but not good enough for print or entry into exhibitions. A DSLR is a better option. Recently, I’ve upgraded my camera to a Canon 77D.

My studio is in my basement which means I don’t get much natural light. So, I purchased a set of studio lights with softboxes from Cowboy Studio so that I can control how much light hits my artwork when I’m photographing. The softboxes are necessary to reduce the harshness of the light on your subject. Without them, you are likely to get “hot spots” where the light directly hits your artwork. They also help to reveal the details in your work better.

Next, I got myself a tripod. Currently, I own quite a few actually — some for table tops and others for the floor. Mounting your camera on a tripod eliminates blurriness in your photos which can happen due to your hand shaking in the process of snapping a photo. Sometimes the shaking is so slight you might not notice but it affects the quality of your photos.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists
My design wall serves as background for photographing

My design wall is made of white fleece so it serves as a perfect neutral background for my photos. I also have a large black fabric which I use as a background when my artwork is light-colored. You always want to use a neutral background for photographing your artwork. White, black or grey work well.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists: Shooting

Photography Tips for Textile Artists
Camera on Tripod and Studio Lights Setup

I position my lights at 90 degrees to the tripod that holds my camera. My lights are adjustable, so I adjust the intensity to match the size of my artwork. For example, little pieces don’t need so much light to illuminate them while larger pieces may need more. If you have to use flash, an external (on camera) flash is more preferable to the in-built flashlight which comes with your camera.

Make sure to focus your camera on the center of your textile artwork before taking a photo. You always want to fill the frame with your artwork. Let me explain that. When you look into the viewfinder of your camera (that little lens hole), you want your artwork to be almost as big as that space. You don’t want it to be a tiny little thing in the frame.

When I had the Canon T1i, I’d zoom the lens in. Now I’ve upgraded to a prime lens (a 50mm lens also known as the nifty fifty). A prime lens is a fixed lens. This means you can’t zoom in or out. To get a different image size I have to move my tripod back and forth. It takes a little getting used to. But prime lenses give better quality photos and a blurry background effect (called bokeh) which is desirable in some types of photography.

Photography Tips for Textile Artists: Editing

Let me just say that it’s not enough to shoot good photos. Learning to edit, will take a ‘meh’ photo to a ‘wow’ photo. I edit almost every photo I use. You can find simple editing tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, and color in any photo editing software. The industry standard for editing photos is Adobe Lightroom. You can also use Adobe Photoshop (or elements) for editing your photos.

At the minimum, edit your photo by adjusting the brightness and contrast levels and cropping out the unnecessary background. Remember that for entry into quilt shows, they don’t want you to crop the edges of your textile artwork. General art shows don’t have that restriction.

Summary of my photo gear.

Here’s a quick summary of my current photo gear.

Camera: Canon 77 D

Lenses: 50 mm and 24 mm

Tripods: Bogen, Manfroto, Focus & more

Camera Flash: Focus

Photo Editing Software: Adobe Photoshop

So, there you have it, my photography tips for textile artists. If you have any questions I didn’t answer in this post, feel free to ask them. They might help other people.

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Originally published at CLARA NARTEY |Textile Artist.