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Photographing Textiles

September 24, 2012

Words and images by Danielle Lancaster
Last week I had an assignment come in which is not in the usual line of the photography I take on however I looked at it as a challenge and to be honest, I am a photography prostitute – if they pay money I may well do the job (there are always a few buts to this but at the end of the day I have children to feed and a mortgage to pay off on a single income).

The job was photographing a hand woven woolen quilt for a competition and exhibition. It was a piece of art. Days gone past pieces of work such as this would have to be sent in for judging but nowadays with digital, judges require digital images to judge by. Photography of textiles has long been important for securing appraisals and acquiring insurance for examples and now for judging.
What camera to use?
While having a digital SLR is great images can be taken on point and shoots. The important thing is the camera must be at least 5 megapixels so pictures can be enlarged and the images are at least 300dpi.
What else do I need?
A tripod or something that can perform the same way such as stool will work well. Many use a cable release or remote control, however the self timer function in your camera will work just as well. Turn VR or IS off when using a support. For Canon and Nikon users this is on the lens and for Sony and Pentax users it is set in camera (at time of writing).
Lighting = Exposure and colour
Light needs to be even and show the texture. While normally side lighting highlights texture for art purposes the lighting needs to uniform across the piece and colour balanced. Taking the pieces indoors means consistent lighting can be controlled. Generally I shoot on AWB and in both Raw and Jpg. My aim is to be working on making sure exposure is even over the piece and therefore even lighting and correcting the colour temperature in camera using my white balance. By doing this I usually have a high res jpg, correctly exposed and colour balanced that can go straight out. If you have a choice on colour bulbs to buy for the purpose choose daylight-balanced bulbs.
Use an aperture of around f5.6 as this is where most lenses are most accurate and you will have the least lens distortion for the lens you have chosen. For point and shoot cameras the Macro or Flower setting is often the best. Always bracket several images at different exposures using exposure compensation. Most important is to keep the ISO low so turn ISO Auto off if a feature in your camera.
Backgrounds do matter. Choose a background the will compliment the tones in the piece. Either white or black is preferred.

 ‘Bush Fire Ashes’
by Cecile Favery
Woven woolen quilt.

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