How to Photograph Artwork

Either for making prints or simply sharing your artwork, you need to photograph your art. It can be an easy task sometimes if lightning is perfect, artwork straight and everything aligns perfectly. 

Most of the time that isn’t the case, and if you don’t want to depend on luck, there are some tips and tricks, you can use in photographing your artwork.

But first, you need good equipment. If you can afford it, there are some excellent cameras on the more expensive side, but luckily you can buy a decent camera at a reasonable price.

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Lightning

choose a location with bright soft lighting because harsh direct lighting can cast shadows, create reflections and shift the color of your artwork. 

a large window can make for a great light source but an overcast day also makes for great shooting outdoors.

If you’re indoors make sure to turn the lights off in your room because they have their own color and won’t mix well with your window light. it’s helpful to use the self-timer to keep your camera perfectly still. this creates a delay between when you press the shutter and the image is taken.

Setting up camera

The thing about light is that it can have a lot of different tones that your eye adjusts for easily but a camera has trouble dealing with it. The way that a camera compensates for this is by using a white balance. the goal is to adjust the white in your image to match the white that your eye sees. if the auto white balance in your camera is tinting orange or blue try using a preset for your lighting environment.

To get the best possible image quality out of your camera you’re going to want to set the ISO to 100 or 200 depending on the camera model. use a microfiber cloth to clean any dirt or smudges off of your lens to make sure that your image is sharp. It’s also important that the camera doesn’t move while the photo is being exposed. the best way to do this is to use a tripod but if you don’t have one, you can use a flat level surface.

when you prop up your work to be photographed it’s important that it’s parallel with the lens of the camera and if the art needs to be on a slant to stand up,  you’ll need to tilt your camera to match the angle.

To maximize the resolution, leave only a small amount of space around the edges of your canvas in the frame. turn your camera horizontally or vertically to match the angle of the canvas. it’s important to make sure that your flash is turned off. if your work is on canvas, great but if it’s on loose paper or cardboard you’re going to want to match it to something that can hang or lean on the wall. you can tape paper from behind and stick it to a wall or put it on a suitable easel.

if you want the best possible quality out of your camera it’s a good idea to zoom in a little. Lenses aren’t at their sharpest when they’re zoomed all the way out or in so you’ll get the best results somewhere in between.

Another good idea is to set your aperture to f/8 but make sure it’s on a tripod. after taking your first image, there are a few things you’re going to want to look for.

if your image is too dark or too bright use the exposure compensation feature in your camera to correct the color and exposure and your image should be as close as possible to the original artwork. you can make adjustments to your computer later but you always risk damaging the image file. finally make sure your image is in focus, if it looks soft or blurry it’s likely that the autofocus made a mistake or that the camera moved while the photo is being taken.

Take several shots of your art. even if you think you got it right the first time you may notice things that you didn’t

notice on the back of your camera. When you put it on your computer screen, don’t start packing up your gear until you’ve reviewed your photos on the computer you may notice the problem you couldn’t see in your camera and you may need to retake the photos

processing images

there’s a lot of applications out there for processing images. if you’re using Windows Picasa is a great free option or iPhoto. You can also use Photoshop or Gimp. If you’re on a Mac, download the files to your hard drive, choose the best image and open it up. Use the cropping tool so that you only see the piece itself and make sure to double check for any visible borders around the edges.

Then zoom into the image at 100% and carefully look it over, checking for anything that wasn’t there in your original artwork. Use the retouch tool to remove any problem areas. Sometimes boosting the contrast slightly can help your art look more true to life but be really careful not to overdo it, because a great image can be ruined quickly by too much editing. save the image to your hard drive as a jpg and be sure to leave the compression at maximum quality.

Now your art is ready to be uploaded to Instagram or printed.

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