5 Tips To Photographing Your Artwork

You've spent hours on your painting. Now, you want to share a photo that portrays the passion and energy you've put in.

You could invite people over to your studio to see the painting in person. Or hope a gallery hangs it. But there are thousands of people who want to see your painting right away! If only you had a decent photo to share on social media, email, for printing, and websites.

Photography is an art in and of itself.

But when it comes to photos of your painting, there's a science to it.

Below are 5 Tips on taking great photos of your work (and we've added 3 BONUS tips that you'll want to know too).

#1. Take high quality photos, even for the web.

You may want an engaged following on Instagram or to impress people with a gallery on your own website. Regardless of where you think the destination is going to be, we highly recommend taking the highest quality photos you can.

It's about being prepared. You may have a stellar social media game but there may come an unforeseen day when you want to have them printed. Even if you don't think anyone will ask for a print, if you plan for one, it's more likely to happen!

#2. What's a decent camera?

It's not about having the most expensive camera. You have several options to choose from. Almost any DSLR purchased in the last few years works great. But for the budget conscious, a $200 Canon or Sony "point-and-shoot" also works well. Then there's most modern cell phones that have the capacity to take high quality photos too.

Check your camera's specifications. You're looking for the mega-pixels (MP) and preferably one with a 8MP or higher capacity. Most cameras, point-and-shoots, and smartphones can snap 10 - 12MP photos these days.

#3. No angles, just straight on.

straight photography of artwork | Timeline Paper Co.

Find a wall to hang your artwork for photos. If you want these photos to look good, there's no leaning artwork up against the wall or having someone hold it from behind. And before you bang a nail into the wall, you do have two choices.

The first choice is near a window for natural light. The second choice is with electrical lighting. We'll get into lighting below but for hanging, think of these two lighting options before you commit to a spot.

The wall should also be flat (no stucco or grooved paneling) and it should be a neutral coloured wall, such as, white, black, or gray. The height of the artwork depends on the tripod or sturdy table, where the camera sits. Looking through the camera, the artwork should be dead center of the lens and parallel to the camera height.

#4. The key to light.

In movies and magazine photography, lighting is one of the most important aspects of the shoot, even beyond the camera quality or expensiveness of equipment. To prove it, Steven Soderbergh (and other filmmakers) have produced full fledged movies using their iPhone 11 smart phones.

Indoor photography should be in a room with plenty of windows and natural light. Natural light can be a beautiful way to photograph your work as long as it is indirect. Some artists also enjoy photographing their work outdoors when it is cloudy or overcast, as indirect sunlight provides the best lighting.

photography setup for photos | Timeline Paper Co.

When there isn't much light in the room, then you'll need artificial, electrical lighting. Place two lights halfway between the camera. One left and the other right of the canvas at 45-degree angles pointing toward the wall (this will help eliminate shadows and “hot spots” on the painting).

LIGHT DIFFUSING HACK: If you don’t have a professional grade lighting kit, you can easily diffuse the light with a white sheet or white plastic between the lights and your work. This helps to evenly distribute the light.

#5. Adjust the camera settings

The ISO and aperture of your camera are very important to get clear, crisp and bright images of your artwork. we want a low ISO. Studio shots will generally be shot at ISO 100. The f-stop of the aperture of your camera adjusts how much light is let through the lens. With a DSLR the ideal range for shooting artwork is between f-11 and f-16. That way, you can ensure that even the most minute details stay sharp.

To guarantee your aperture value doesn’t change on your DSLR, select Aperture Priority mode.

Smartphones and point-and-shoots adjust these settings automatically, unless you have an app or change the settings manually to change the ISO and Aperture. Although, most smartphones are "smart enough" to give you a good photo, when you have good lighting.

HERE ARE SOME BONUS STEPS

Bonus #1: Don't compress it.

After all the time tweaking and retaking photos, which might have taken you the entire afternoon to set up, it would be a shame to send off your photo and have it's quality compressed when it gets to the recipient's side.

Sending through email or uploading to places in the cloud can compress the image and quality is lost. Not to mention your time.

Your best options are to use free services, like DropBox, Google Drive, WeTransfer, or TransferNow. These systems allow for large files to be transferred safely.

Bonus #2: Distances

When you set the camera on it's tripod or table, move it in as close as possible to the painting. When you check the viewfinder of the camera leave only a small amount of space around the edges of your artwork. You can crop out anything extra later using software. This gives you much better sharpness to showcase the fine details of your work.

Bonus #3: Check the focus to get fine detail

Once you take a few photos, view them on the camera or computer screen. Zoom into the photo to check on the detail and focus of the photo.

Also, check your framing that it's as square as possible. You can use the crop tool on your computer software to make slight adjustments and squaring.

Conclusion

Remember, you may be envisioning your artwork being printed but if you don't prepare for it, you are less likely to have it happen.

Taking good, high quality photos relies less on luck and more on techniques discussed above. You can use a similar set up for every painting you create.