Tips for Taking Great Reference Photos for Quilts


Are you working on the Quilt 2018 May Project – Pictorial quilt? Need to take some reference photos? Here’s a little help!

When creating pictorial and landscape quilts, photographs make great reference sources. Try these tips to make sure you get the shot!

Lighting is Everything
  • One Main Light Source: Try to have one obvious light source. If you are outside, this sun could fill that role, but inside, you may need to remove multiple light sources, or add a main one. 
  • Position: Consider the positioning of the light source and the resulting effect. Move the light source, or the subject, to see if the results are improved.
  • Contrast: When snapping that perfect picture, be sure to have a strong contrast between light and dark. When your subject has less contrast, things tend to get muddy and grayed out. 
  • Values: Use light to increase the your range of colors and values.
  • Highlights & Shadows: Snap a few photos and take a look. Pay special attention to the highlights and shadows. Are the highlights focusing the viewer’s attention in the right areas? 
Simplify the Background
  • Keep focused: A complex background takes attention away from the main subject. Take a moment to look at the background. Is it competing with the subject of the photo?
  • Declutter: Take away object cluttering up the background. 
  • Cover it up: If you can declutter, try covering the background by draping it with cloth or repositioning the subject.
Shoot, shoot, shoot!
  • Wide shots: Don’t forget to take a few wide shots for context. Be careful about changing the perspective.
  • Change views: Take a collection of photos from one position including wide and zoomed in on the subject. Then try a new position and see if it catches your attention better. Keep moving until you find the view that gets you excited!
  • Lose the color: Switch over to black and white for a few photos to evaluate contrast, identify any problem shadows, and over exposure.

Want some help turning your photos into quilts? Here are a few resources for you to try…

Translate Photos into Fabric Art with Leni Wiener at


Thread Portraits with Teri Henderson Tope

or the book..


Fabulous Flower Photo Quilts with Melinda Bula

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