All artists know this struggle. In our ever-increasingly digital world, we have become reliant on using photographs to apply for opportunities or to simply share our art with the public. To successfully disseminate your work online, you must know how to photograph your artwork.
But this is easier said than done. Trying to successfully translate the in-person effect of your artwork in a photograph is incredibly challenging, primarily if you don’t typically deal with photography as a medium.
Whether you are using a high-end camera or just your smartphone, we’ve put together an easy guideline on the best practices and tips for how to photograph your artwork.
Step 1 – Hang Your Artwork on the Wall
Before you begin trying to take the photo, start by “posing” your artwork. To get a good, professional image of your artwork, you will need your artwork to be parallel with the camera. The best way to avoid getting a photo at an awkward angle (like looking down or from the side) is to hang your artwork up on the wall.
Hang your artwork on a neutral-colored wall, with no other distracting items in the frame of the image. The goal is to get the middle of your art piece parallel with the camera, so aim to be in line with the tripod or, if you don’t have a tripod, align it to the height you’ll be holding the camera up with your hands.
Step 2 – Pay Attention to Lighting
Lighting might be one of the most important and most challenging aspects of photographing your artwork. Without proper lighting, your artwork’s color, texture, and even shape won’t be properly conveyed in photography. When figuring out how to photograph your artwork, there is a good chance that this is where you get stuck.
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Depending on your preference, you can either shoot your art indoors or outdoors. If you choose to go indoors, aim for a room with plenty of windows and natural light. You don’t want to be in a space that is too dark or lit with artificial fluorescents.
Photographing your artwork outside is also a great option, especially on a cloudy day. Indirect natural light is the best lighting for photographing a work of art, so an overcast day is ideal. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast; the last thing you want is for that cloudy day to turn into a rainy day!
Use a Lighting Kit
In the event of bad weather outside, or if going outside simply isn’t an option logistically, you will want to use a lighting kit to adjust the lighting in your indoor photography space.
If you only need a lighting kit just for photographing your artwork, you can set one up at a relatively cheap cost. You’ll need two light stands or light clamps. Place the lights halfway between the artwork and the camera, angled at a 45-degree angle toward the wall.
You can easily diffuse the light for a DIY lighting kit by getting a large white fabric or plastic sheet and placing it between the light and the canvas.
When it comes to lighting, the key is to keep the light evenly throughout the image. If you’re outside, keep the artwork either fully in the light or fully in the shadow (ideally shadow, to avoid that harsh direct light). And if you’re inside, make sure your artwork is evenly exposed to the lamps and that no shadows are being cast, including from your arms and camera as you take the photo.
Step 3 – Keep the Image in Focus
Technical photography skills can feel overwhelming to those without a lot of photography experience. However, you’ll need some basic photography skills to take a quality image of your artwork. Here are some basic camera tips to make sure you’re using your tools to the best of your ability.
For those trying to use a smartphone to take their image, you’ll need to keep an eye on the autofocus. Although smartphone cameras come with an autofocus feature, they’re not as reliable as regular digital cameras. When using a smartphone camera, take several images from slightly different distances, giving your phone’s camera time to adjust the autofocus whenever you change your position.
If you’re using a digital camera, make sure that the autofocus is on and that it’s functioning properly. Getting your image in focus likely won’t be that challenging if you’re using a digital camera, but there are other camera features to which you’ll want to pay attention.
Namely, check the ISO your camera is set to before you begin. ISO refers to shutter speed. To get a crisp image of your artwork, you’ll want to keep the ISO low.
You can also adjust the f-stop to control the aperture, which determines how much light is let through the lens. The higher the number, the less light comes through.
Step 4 – Do Some Minimal Editing
While you don’t want to dramatically alter how your original artwork looks, it is worthwhile to use editing software to improve the lighting and color of your photograph to reflect your artwork more accurately.
Using photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you can easily tweak lighting, color correction, and cropping to improve your image quality.
If your main goal is figuring out how to photograph your artwork without changing what your art looks like, try to stick to edits that will convey how it looks in person. This can mean editing out the borders of the photograph that are just the wall the artwork is hanging on or adjusting the overall temperature of the image to better match how it looks in the light.
Photographing your artwork should be accessible to everyone. Even with your camera phone, if you position your artwork well, use quality lighting, keep the image in focus, and make some minor edits, you are able to make fantastic, crisp images of your artwork that you can share with the world.
As for next steps after you make digital copies of your art, why not consider canvas prints, metal prints or acrylic prints of your work? These can be sold at local art shows, galleries, or online.