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Capturing Artwork that Captures Your Audience

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Tips On Photographing Your Art For The Web 

by Gail Daly

Presentation is everything—especially on the Internet, where the only impression you can make is what is seen. A poor presentation can make the difference between getting a sale and being accepted into an online show. For the judges to get an accurate idea of your art, the image you send must match the colors in the art and be sharp and clear. For many of us, taking a good photograph of our art is hard. Before you send off the photo of your art, you should:

1) Make sure that the size of the photo agrees with the directions given by the prospectus.

2) Be sure the image is sharp, clear, and not distorted.

3) Check the colors in the photo against the actual art to make sure they are correct. I am not a professional photographer, but I do manage to take credible photos of my work without paying a pro to do it for me. Here are a few tips that might help those of us who are “photo challenged”:

LIGHTING

  • Make sure you are taking the photo in an area that doesn’t cast shadows on the work. Personally, I prefer to take my photos outside on a clear day. I use the front of my garage, and I do it between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. I don’t use an elaborate setup; I have simply put a couple of nails into the wood at the appropriate height for the camera, and then I rest the painting’s stretcher bars on the nails. If you are using paper or canvas sheets, you can put the sticky stuff teachers use to hang students artwork on the wall to the back of the art (after making sure your art is level).

  • Be sure the sun isn’t glaring on the work so there will not be shiny surfaces to reflect back at the camera. If you are working with watercolor or pastel, then take the photo before you frame it because glass will reflect back at the camera also. I also take the photo before I varnish acrylics to cut down on the glare caused by the varnish.

DISTORTION

  • Make sure that your camera is aimed squarely at the art. It helps to use a tripod; you can align the front two feet of the tripod squarely with the art so that you aren’t taking the photo at an angle that would cause one side of the art to be larger than the other. If necessary, use a tape measure to make sure the feet are an equal distance from the art. A tripod also helps to prevent blurring caused by your hand shaking. Most of us don’t think our hand moves the camera when pushing the button, but it does.

  • Use a small hand level to ensure that the camera is not angled when taking the photo, as this will also cause distortion.

CAMERAS

  • You don’t need an expensive camera to take photos of your art. Canon makes an excellent-quality digital camera for under $300 that is very user-friendly. As a plus, the newer models also take video so you can use the video setting to record art shows and then upload to Facebook, YouTube, and other social networking sites.

CAMERA SETTINGS

  • When taking the initial (raw) photo of your work, be sure to set your camera to take fine or large files, and take at least 3 exposures of each artwork.

EDITING YOUR PHOTOS FOR THE WEB

  • The least expensive and easy-to-use photo editing program is Photoshop Elements. It has tutorials and is fairly easy to learn. Once the initial photo of the work has been loaded, you can then make additional copies at different resolutions.

YOU SHOULD HAVE THREE TYPES OF IMAGES

  • A large resolution image (between 1 and 2 MB) to use if you decide to make prints of your work.

  • A medium/low resolution image to put on your website (between 1 – 2 KB). This size is usually too small to encourage attempts to pirate your image, because it probably won’t make prints any larger than a 5 x 7 without blurring, but you can add digital watermarking with Elements.

  • A small image (between 200 and 125 pixels) for thumbnail images and record keeping.

  • You should keep a photo log with both high- and low-resolution photos of your work separately from your desktop computer—flash drives are excellent for this. A working copy can be kept there, but be sure to back up your files each month onto a separate disc or jump drive. Keep the back-up copies of these items in a separate location from your computer and up-date your backups monthly. Once your records are lost due to computer crashes, natural disaster or any other reason, they are gone. Good luck!


  • Plan out where and when you are going to take your photos.

  • Assemble your equipment before you start.

  • Allow plenty of time to set up.

  • Be prepared to take the photo, review it, and make adjustments.


Gail Daley is a self-taught artist and director of the Kingsburg Art Center in Kingsburg, California. For more of Gail's work, visit this site

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