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How to photograph paintings

Aug 27, 2016 by Anneke Verschuren

Photo of How to photograph paintings

These days there are many reasons why you want a good stock of photos from your Art. Whether you like to sell your art online, contribute to a catalogue, enter an online competition or just post them on Facebook; it is of great importance to make sure that the photo is reflecting your artwork in the right colors. If the photo is too small or out of focus, or if there are problems with color, lighting or shadows, then you are not showing a true representation of your work. This can lead to disappointed customers or misinterpretation of your work.

We have captured the most important tips for you from our own experience and from the many tutorials online.

1. Prepare your art

Take the painting out of the frame and remove any matting before photographing to prevent any shadows. Never photograph a picture under glass. Hang your art on an empty wall. White is the perfect background. Avoid shadows and messy framing, by making sure that the piece is level against the wall. Or place a board on an easel and lean your art against it. Tilt the camera to match the tilt of the easel.

2. Equipment

2.1. Camera

Any camera could be used to photograph your work. It is not necessary to purchase a High-end DSLR camera. Perfectly adequate and interesting photographs that get your work noticed can be achieved with a fairly up-to-date smart phone. You can buy or borrow a good digital camera, but it will require some studying if you are not used to work with this type of equipment.

If you use a camera with manual options, then we recommend these basic settings:

2.2. Tripod

A tripod is handy for centering your camera in front of your painting and to prevent shaking. If you do not have access to a tripod, you can rest your camera on a flat surface to keep it straight and still.

3. Taking the photos

3.1. Lighting

The ultimate aim is to ensure accurate color reproduction. Lighting is extremely important when taking a high quality photograph of your artwork. It can have an enormous impact on almost all aspects of the resulting image. There is no substitute for the use of natural light. If you are lucky, you have a sunny room with a big window and white walls that reflect the light. A sunny but overcast day gives the best results; preferable early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the light is softer.

For those of us that do not have the luxury of the perfect environment, you could invest, rent or borrow some studio lights or a photo light tent.

Position the lights and the artwork carefully before taking the photo. Make sure there are no shadows concealing parts of the piece, no direct light reflections and that there are no problems with high contrast, which will give you an image with very dark or very light patches.

Do not use a flash, it is likely to distort color and will cast harsh shadows.

3.2. The photo

Be sure to always clean your lens...

The camera should be at the same height as the center of your artwork. Tilt your camera to match the same angle of your artwork.

Position the camera at some distance from the object, and then zoom in when necessary. Whenever possible, you should fill the frame with your work; try not to show any background or frame.

Now take lots of shots! And choose the best. You might have thought you got the perfect shot, but it could turn out to be overexposed, or perhaps a movement somehow ruined the image at just the wrong time. Don’t trust the preview on your camera’s screen – this preview is often too small to show some of the most important details.

3.3. Labelling

Do yourself a favour and label each image clearly, consistently and with full detail. Title, medium, dimensions and year are all pieces of information you’re likely to need attached to these images at some point, so if you include them in the image title or description now, you’ll save yourself time and effort later.

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