Photographing Your Artwork
It is really important to keep photographs of all your Artwork. On my tutorial The importance of An Artist’s Log I discuss this in detail. However, if you would like to sell your work on line or post it on to a website, it is imperative that you have beautiful clear photographs in high resolution format. This copy should not be shared. This is YOUR copy.. we will discuss that later.
I am not a photographer. Everything I know I have taught myself, and it is all practical so please ignore the absence of photographic terminology.
I have a Samsung J5 cell phone. There are obviously many other phone cameras out there however, in my opinion, used correctly, you can get a great photograph with most cameras that have about 5 megapixels.
If you are fortunate to have access to a photographer in your close circle then this problem is solved, however most artists I know (myself included) find that we do EVERYTHING ourselves to try and keep costs as low as possible.
A good digital camera and at least one good photographic program on your computer is really important. I have never managed to figure out Photoshop and find it way to complicated, but you can download a small free program called Photoscape that is brilliant. Using Photoscape, Microsoft Picture Manager and Paint and paint.net, I manage to do everything I need to do sufficiently well for photo adjustments like cropping and enhancing etc.
Photoscape is a free program that can be downloaded here.
BNC (Big Naked Chic) by Jax
I only managed to photograph this painting after I had hung it on a long wall at the foot of a flight of stairs and stood on the stairs half way up to photograph it. (It is 2m long!) Fortunately it is a dark painting so it was easier to capture
- I have since resized the painting (I cropped a chunk of the black off the bottom) and had it mounted in a frame. This painting is still available to buy in my Art Gallery
Taking your photographs
1. You need good light, not direct light. The best time for me in South Africa (and I say this because the light is so different in other countries in the world) is a slightly overcast day. This helps avoid directly glare but offers a surrounding light that is so important.
2. Photographs need to be taken directly in front of the painting. Most camera’s will have a guide of some sort that is visible in the view finder or on the screen of digital cameras. This needs to be centred on your painting, as per the example on the right.
3. Ensure that in your viewfinder, the edges of your painting are lined up with 2 sides of the view finder. Irrespective of the size. Try and get in as close as possible so as to fill the frame, but ensure that you co not cut off edges of the painting. Do not use a zoom or a flash. The zoom will reduce the clarity and the flash will flatten the colours of the painting.
Marilyn by Jax
Take a few pictures and see what the light looks like on the photo. Move your painting if there is a glare. Ensure that the colors are as defined as they are in the painting. Do not adjust the images to make it look “better” than the colors that you have used, if you want to sell the original painting.
Very importantly, if you use metallic or reflective paints or items on your work, ensure that these do not reflect as it will distort the images and your buyer may not be too happy if the painting looks different to what he has paid for.
If you seal your paintings (as I sometimes do) with a Matt or Gloss sealer, ensure that you take the photographs BEFORE you seal them to avoid this reflective glare.
Use Paint or Photoscape or whatever other photo program you prefer to “clean up” the images if you experience similar problems like the one below.
Ellie by Jax
This painting didn’t photograph very well as you can see a slightly darker shadow on the bottom right of the background and it has a dark edge on the top left.
Preferably do not use a flash unless you have a fancy camera that can bounce the flash off the ceiling or somewhere other than your painting.
It’s a good idea to get to know your camera and your photo programs well. Practice makes perfect! I would be completely lost without my camera as I use it all the time gathering painting reference and to photograph my Art.
The programs I use are really simple but effective. They allow me to do all I need for the moment.
Chocolate by Jax
Photographing a painting with gold in it can be tricky as it has a metallic finish and shines.
Once you have all your photographs, rename them all. Indicate name and size like this
This will save you hours on your uploads.
Save all your photographs in a file which you can subdivide into categories. For example
- Faces and figures
Save this photograph in it’s original largest format. DO NOT alter these sizes. Put this file in a place where you are not going to access it easily and perhaps adjust the sizes of the actual photos here by accident.
Then copy this entire file again into a working file and call it
Go through each photograph and resize it to Web large size. This album will be used on sites that have size limits. It reduces the pixels of the picture.
My friend Adrian has posted a very useful article on photosizes that you can find here. easelspace.com He discusses taking photo’s that you can make prints from. Some websites offer this facility. He also explains how to reduce your photo size correctly.