Photographing Artwork

Hints for taking photos of artwork

Chris Senior, a local experienced photographer, has  put together a number of points to consider when taking a photo of your artwork.

Too often the photographs supplied by artists of their work are technically lacking and pretty useless for promotional purposes, rather defeating the purpose for which they were taken.

These guidelines should help the non-technically minded achieve better results.

  1.   Your mobile phone or device may be great for snaps and selfies, but is unlikely to do justice to your artwork. Use a good point and shoot camera or a DSLR if you can. You will have much more control of the process.
  2. Disable the built in flash (usually via the menu). It will impart harsh shadows, blown highlights and ugly reflections.
  3. Shoot in even, shadowless light. You could wait for a day of light overcast and work outside, or shoot in light shade.  A room well light by even, natural light also works well. Always watch for distracting reflections.
  4. Don’t try to handhold the camera. Use a tripod or sit the camera on a level surface. Fire the shutter using the timer if it has one.
  5. The camera and artwork should both be level and perfectly square to each other, otherwise the image may appear distorted.
  6. Fill the camera viewfinder/rear screen with your artwork. This will have much more impact.
  7. Try setting the control dial to Macro mode, zoom lens to somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way through its range and leave it there. Note that this is a guide only as different cameras have varying zoom ranges. You are aiming for a field of view roughly equivalent to that of your eyes. Then move the camera back and forth to achieve (6) above.
  8. Set camera for its highest resolution and backup to your computer. Don’t just rely on the camera card as your archiving medium. This gives a lot more latitude to the ways the image can later be used. You may need a downsized version to send via the internet though.
  9. All light sources impart colour casts (including daylight). Auto ISO usually does a good job, but if you see an unrealistic colour cast in the image you may need to experiment with other ISO settings.
  10. Always watch for unwanted reflections from your painting. They can come from from any light source ‘seen’ by the painting (think of it as a mirror). Changing location, orientation, turning off lights or deploying makeshift screens to mask the light source can all help.

It can all seem a bit fiddly, but if you want people looking at promotional material to see your work as it is, then it is effort well spent.