- On October 18, 2015
How To Photograph Your Art Like A Pro
Image Capture Tips for Artists
We all know that there are numerous reasons to document our art, but obtaining a good image is often easier said than done. If you’re not a photographer, it is certainly possible to hire one for this task, but with a little effort and planning, you can capture excellent images of your art on your own.
Here are a few pointers to make this process easier. While these guidelines are aimed at capturing 2-Dimensional art, many of the same principals apply while shooting 3-D work – though the technical considerations become more involved.
- First, remember that the goal of documenting your art is to document your art. As tempting as it might be to fix issues with the original work in post production, fight this urge. Curators want to see digital versions of your art that actually look like your work, so represent your art as accurately as possible.
- Shoot in RAW format if possible. It is always best to have a large file, which can be re-sized smaller as needed. Ideally, your archives should contain a full RAW version of the work, a smaller but still high-resolution version (300dpi) and a web-ready version (72 dpi).
- Use a tripod. Hand held is simply too unstable to get a perfectly crisp image capture.
- Be sure the image is perfectly perpendicular (90°) to the camera lens, and shoot from far enough away that edge distortion is limited (see diagram).
- Light your work with bright but diffused light such as from a light box. Simple hacks can be rigged using bright stand lamps and thin, white fabric. Lights should be placed at about the same distance as the camera, oriented towards the artwork at a 45° angle (see diagram). This angle is important for avoiding reflections from the bulbs or hot spots in the image. If you have a light meter, use it.
- Avoid using a flash as this makes accurate color capture challenging (not impossible, but this is a higher level skill to achieve). Instead light the work in a way that accurately represents what the human eye can see under normal, well-lit circumstances.
- Set you ISO (your cameras sensitivity to light) low to avoid adding extra “noise” to your image. ISO 100-200 is a good starting point. This can be problematic in low-light situations, but since the artwork will remain perfectly still and you will be lighting your work, this should be a non-issue.
- Set your F-Stop (aperture) low (lens wide open). This will limit your depth of field but allow for very crisp images. Since we are discussing 2-dimensional art, the shallow depth of field is not an issue.
If the work is highly textured, consider going to a slightly higher F-stop, which will allow more of the image plane to remain in focus. Many lenses tend to lose image quality on the extreme ends of the f-stop range so it may be a balancing act to find the “sweet spot”. If you have a light meter, they can be a big help in getting the perfect setup.
- Focus. Make sure the lens is clean and the image crisp, or no amount of wishing will give you the image you’re after.
- Once you have the image, minimize your post production modification. Some adjustments can be made to make the digital version match the real art, but remember; the goal is to accurately represent the work.
Share The Love:
Once you’ve gone to all this trouble to set up, why not share the love? Invite your artist friends over and make a day of it. Many hands make light work and together you can shoot a lot of work in a short amount of time.