Mad Photo Skillz

My husband's 7th grade picture, on our workbench
Welcome to those of you who are visiting after reading my guest blogging post on the Quilt Gallery blog. Michelle was a real pleasure to work with and as a former teacher of writing, I really enjoyed the opportunity to share a few tips I've learned along the way. I'm planning to offer more suggestions about writing for blogs and for publication and possibly to be taking on a few online "students" in the future, so if you're interested check back, or even better drop me a line and let me know of your interest.

At any rate, along with writing I've greatly enjoyed the opportunities my work presents to improve my photography. I took photo classes in high school and spent many pleasant hours breathing in horrid chemicals under a red light—okay, so that wasn't a hightlight, but I so loved darkroom work—the magic of watching the image slowly appear in the trays of developer. I shot photos for my high school yearbook and continued through college to take and develop them. But as kids and life intervened, I switched to a point and shoot camera.

So it was with trepidation that I started shooting "serious" photos again, first for my blog, but then for Etsy stories and my Quilt County column. And now I love it. I still have much to learn, though, and one of my challenges is taking crisp, clean shots of individual items. Etsy has fantastic resources for taking great photos and there are lots of tutorials on line about photography, too. I used this one and this one when I decided to make a light box, and below are a few shots of the process.

Start with a box. This one was pretty large, and thus harder to store the finished product.

One one side, measure 2 inches in from each of the four edges of the box, marking the distance at intervals along each side.

Using a straight edge (a quilter's ruler would work well for this), connect the dots to draw a line. Then use a box cutter to slice the cardboard away, leaving a "frame." Do this to three of the boxes sides, leaving the back and bottom of the box uncut.

Below is what it will look like, with "frames" cut into three sides:

Next, cover the three "frames" with something white that is transparent enough to let in light. Some tutorials suggest tissue paper, but I thought this would be too easy to accidentally punch through. Most quilters have some muslin in their stash and so that's what I used, along with duct tape to hold it tightly in place.

When you've covered all three "frames" it will look like this on the outside and inside:

Now, add a sheet of white paper to the back and bottom. I got some poster board. Mine wasn't quite wide enough, but still works well for shooting small items. Then, add lights. I placed mine directly under the lamp that lights our kitchen table. It's near a window and I hoped the natural light might be enough, but in retrospect I would add lights to either side. Again, if you're a quilter and have an Ott light or other portable light, these would be ideal to place on the sides.

And finally, try some sample photos. While I love the white background, I think they would be made much crisper by adding side lighting (portable shop lights would work well, too).

There you have it! I'm more than a little embarrassed that I didn't take the time to crop and enhance these photos. And I think that the scarf in the bottom photo would show off much more effectively on a live model (like this one). But you get the idea. Take the time to get creative with it—try lights on just one side, change the color of your background, etc. It will go a long way toward improving your photos!

Do you have any great tricks for shooting textile photos for your blog? What do you think of this light box? I'd love to hear from you!