Anatomy of a Photo Shoot

design, experiences, quilting


[Note: the photos in this post are from previous photoshoots to give you an idea of the vast amount of equipment needed to get the beautiful photos that appear in our magazine. You’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see the ones we got today.]

June 1 – Finish up the follow-up from Quilt Market and email our photographer Jim White hoping to book him for June 14 for the photos to go in Modern Quilts Illustrated Issue #6, thinking that maybe we could possibly get the quilts done by then. Jim’s not available so we opt for the 13th. Just lost a day of quilting…

June 2 – Finalize designs and check to make sure we have the fabrics we need to make three quilts and a project.

June 5 – More orders than expected to pack up and ship while our co-workers are on vacation so quiltmaking is delayed. Phone calls and emails usually become more frequent when we try to prepare quilts for a photoshoot.

June 6 – Prewash all fabrics and start cutting.

June 7 – I start a new project with a different sort of improvisational piecing technique. I spend the whole day working on it, wondering if I’ll be able to write enough specific directions that people will be able to make the project. Still unsure, I keep sewing, hoping it will become more clear as I get closer to the end.

June 8 – I realize that the directions are going to end up being too vague for most people and worry that they will be frustrated. At 11pm, Bill and I start designing a third quilt from scratch. Bill is halfway done with the first one. Nothing comes to mind so we go to bed discouraged.


June 9 – Walking home from church I have an idea. Bill loves it. We start cutting immediately. Happily the fabric is from our stash which is all prewashed. From now until the morning of the photoshoot we’ll be working until around 11pm each night.

June 10 – Bill finishes piecing Quilt #1 and immediately starts Quilt #2, which Katie the intern has already cut up for us. Katie also prepares the bindings for us for all of the quilts. We want a baby and kids for the photoshoot so we ask friends and neighbors with kids the right ages. Kids are a go but no word from the baby’s mom. Iron dies so Bill orders a new one for immediate delivery.

June 11 – Bill starts on Quilt #2 while I’m still working on Quilt #3. Quilt #3 involves curved piecing so it’s slower going but essential to have variety in the issue. Still no word from the baby’s mom. Bill starts quilting Quilt #1 and is most of the way through the piecing of Quilt #2. The studio is abuzz with three interns and Nancy who has returned from Italy and relieves me of order processing so I can finish my quilt.


June 12 – Baby’s mom isn’t feeling well so I post on Facebook that we’re looking for a baby less than six months old. A family from church offers in 10 mins and we’re set. I email Jim White the shots we’ll need and the expected order, knowing that it may change because there’s a baby involved. We’re going to have to improvise based on how the baby does. There’s a Severe Weather Warning for Chicago and we’re furiously trying to finish quilting hoping that we don’t lose electricity. Sophie and our pets are all in the basement with our camping light. We have a laptop open with the radar tracking the storm’s path. It looks like it’s going to head just south of us but there are funnel clouds spotted 20 miles away. We get a heavy rain but no damage. Bill finishes piecing Quilt #2 and I finish piecing Quilt #3. Bill and I take turns with our quilts on the long-arm and Bill finishes the binding of his quilt at 1:15am.


June 13 – I’m up early moving furniture in preparation for the photoshoot while also helping to get our daughter off to camp. Bill anticipates the space Jim will need for his equipment and we discuss the order of the shots to minimize the time spent moving lighting and equipment around. Jim arrives at 8:45 and I show him how and where I’m envisioning each shot. Co-worker Sandy arrives and I get her started on her work for the day. The kids arrive for the first shot and Bill and I try to clown around with them to get them relaxed and expressive. We look at the shots one at a time on Jim’s laptop which is tethered to his camera so we can see each shot seconds after he takes it. We look at each image with the magazine’s masthead in place so we can see how the photo will look once there’s text in place. We determine which child will be seated and which will stand based on how the photo will look with the text. They do a great job and are out the door 30 minutes after they walk in the door.

We realize that the grass has grown significantly with the previous night’s rain and that we’ll need to cut the grass before the baby arrives at 1:30 for the outdoor shot. Just as I go to change clothes to cut the grass while Bill and Jim set up the first shot the mother of the baby calls and says that the baby is in good spirits now and could they come in 45 mins before the baby gets too tired.

I manage to cut the grass and shower again in 25 mins just in time for the baby and her family’s arrival. Sandy cheerfully entertains the 2-year-old and 4-year-old while we, the mom and the baby shoot various options outside. The baby is a champ and her mother wonderfully helpful. We get a variety of shots in 45 minutes and decide that the baby’s work is done.

Bill and Jim do flat shots while Sandy and I pull Sophie’s room apart for the last shot. We try several ideas including swapping out curtains, chairs and props before Jim comes up to do a preliminary shot. We look at several camera angles before we finalize the shot. As soon as that shot is done I get the project shots prepared. Bill sketches how he expects to lay out the pattern so we know the proportions of the photo we’ll need to shoot. Sophie arrives home from camp and goes outside to play with neighbors.


We realize that we have all of the shots so Jim uploads the shots onto Bill’s laptop so Bill can finish laying out the patterns. We help Jim pack up his equipment and load it into his van at 4:30. Sandy has just accepted a full-time job downtown so we all walk down to the local ice cream shop to celebrate. As we walk to the ice cream shop we talk about how wonderful and easy these photoshoots are with Jim. He’s a wonderful collaborator and doesn’t blink an eye at being asked to work with a 6-week-old baby or in a tight spot in the corner of a room. He’s open to our ideas and we value his opinions as well. Tomorrow we’ll finalize writing to get the issue to print before the International Quilt Festival set up next week.

8 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Photo Shoot

  1. Love the very organizational process step description! Having been with you for one photo shoot, it took me back to great memories!

    1. You were a champion “kid wrangler” last summer Judy. We expect the advance copy of “A Kid’s Guide to Sewing” to arrive tomorrow!

    1. They are peaceful and serene Mary Ann. Everyone is relaxed and just calmly and methodically working through each detail. It means long days of preparation but we always look forward to photoshoots and seeing our hard work look so beautiful. I only had about 5 hrs of sleep last night because I was going through details in my head but I woke up with my game face on. All of us are so focused on every wrinkle and every little shadow that looks out of place. I wanted to share this because I wanted our readers to understand the care and planning that goes into each precious shot.

      Weeks Ringle co-owner and designer

      Modern Quilt Studio 719 Iowa Street Oak Park IL 60302 (708) 445-1817

  2. You get tired just reading it. Got my latest book today and I am fondly looking back at the intense week of photography around kids and newborns. It is always good to share how much work goes into these things.

  3. I so enjoyed reading the process. Thanks for the behind the scenes look. the care you take shows in each of your publications. I’m getting ready to make your pear quilt and am SO geeked.

  4. Weeks, thank you for letting us hang out with y’all and vicariously share the whole first half of the month by giving us that quick read, all as wr enjoy the comforts of our sofa and a/c. The price y’all pay for us!! And thank you to Miss Sophie for the set space she allows, to your church friends, neighbors and the baby’s mom!! Love love love this post! Y’all are a blast!
    And as we battle wildfires and heat here in Colorado, were praying with y’all through the storms out there. Crazy photo of Sears Tower on news.
    Congrats on another successful issue! Oh! Saw y’all’s first issue on the stand at JoAnns. Awesome!
    Again, thank you and well done!!!

  5. What a wonderful post! I loved reading about all the minute-by-minute changes of plans and real life events. The downside was it did explode my notion of what a glamorous life it must be to be a professional quilter and designer and artist. I guess it’s not all gallery openings and book launches and champagne cocktails, is it. In all seriousness, it was a lovely read and I enjoyed the behind the scenes pictures of the photo shoot.

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