Class Review: Digital Quilt Photography with Jeffrey Lomicka

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I’ve been working hard to update my website and that includes photographing my quilts. I was waiting for this class to see if I could pick up some tricks of the trade.

Jeffrey Lomicka grew up in the photography capital of America — Rochester, NY — which was the home of Eastman Kodak. Jeffrey said that everyone’s dad worked for Eastman Kodak and that the high schools had excellent photography studios. Thus began his love of photography. He is not a professional photographer; his day job is writing software. He is also a longarm quilter and photographs both the MQX (since 2007) and Vermont Quilt Festival shows. His photographs have appeared in several quilting magazines.

The class began with an overview of how the camera works. We covered the basic elements of a good photograph — the focal length of the lens; the aperture; shutter speed; image sensor (ISO value); and flash. Every time I take a photography class I am struck by the amount of mathematics and technology that goes into understanding photography. These concepts are not easy for me. I finally have an understanding that f-stop equates with the size of the “iris” of the camera, and ISO has to do with the a camera’s sensitivity to light. I also understand that a good photographer is making constant tradeoffs amongst these items to try and create a good photograph.

What does this all mean? It means there is no magic formula for photographing quilts. It depends on the room’s lighting conditions, type of light (florescent vs. natural, for example) and  light sources. It depends on the color of the quilt. It also depends on the color of the thread and how difficult it is to show details.

One of the common pieces of advice is to photograph quilts outside. I loved that Jeffrey tried this experiment. He discovered that quilts are very large and that a small amount of wind will knock over his quilt stand. In addition, it is hard to find an area that is clear of branches (which create shadows) and other visual distractions. He recommends shooting quilts inside.

This class was totally on shooting quilts that are displayed on a stand. I was disappointed that we were not learning about more artsy shots — for example how to show a quilt displayed on a couch or beside a fireplace. Nevertheless, I did learn a great deal. I think my biggest takeaway was that quilts need to be photographed (preferably with a tripod) from the center of the quilt. This may sound obvious, but I have been shooting all of my quilts from my eye-height. Hmmm … no wonder the results aren’t so good. I think I need to invest in a tripod.

Jeffrey showed us many of his quilt photos. They were gorgeous. The upshot of the class was that I purchased his photo disks from MQX East 2011 and MQX West 2011. I will purchase his photo disk of this show when it is available. He does a far better job than I ever could, and I realized that I could learn a great deal from reviewing the photos taken in the MQX photography room.

You can learn more about Jeffrey’s quilts at www.jncquilts.com.

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