Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to take pictures of your artwork for non photographers

One of the questions students always ask me is "Miss Vanessa, how do I take good pictures of my own artwork?" I thought it would be a great topic to cover before the show and before they frame their artwork. 

Before you start clicking away with your iPhone or Polaroid, there are some questions you should ask yourself...


  • What is my final output (e.g., print, web, Facebook)?

  • Is it for the web? For print? 

  • If it is for the web and you sharing it with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc., then you don’t need a high resolution picture. The resolution doesn't need to be more than 72 dpi. You can just use your iPhone or Android to take the picture.  

  • If you want a better quality picture with more definition, which you can use later for printing, then I will recommend you to take your pictures digital camera or SLR camera that can give you a 300 dpi output.



What is dpi?

DPI stands for dot per inch and it is a measure of printing resolution. For web, you only need 72 dpi since the files have to be light to upload them to the web. For printing purposes you need 300 dpi or higher so the print does not look blurry or pixelated. The higher the resolution of your photograph, the better the quality of print.

How do I figure out the resolution on my camera?

Look at the camera specs. Each camera is different. If you are like me, you probably have no idea where the paperwork that came with the camera is.  No problem, it is most likely online. Just google your camera model and brand.

What camera do you use for your images? 

If my output is for printing, I use my Canon Rebel, which is a SLR. If the outcome is just going to be digital, I use a point and shoot canon or my iPhone. They both give good results.

What setting do you use for taking the pictures? 

The settings will depend on your camera. So if you are not familiar with your manual settings ( M, Av, TV, P), keep it simple and use the auto settings. Usually there are a couple of options on the auto settings. Play around with them under natural light and see which gives you the best outcome.

Okay so I covered the camera information, now let's talk about what are you taking pictures of. 

When I take pictures of my paintings or drawings, I try to make sure that they are centered and flat before taking the picture. I try to use natural light and avoid busy backgrounds or bright sunshine. When I do 3D artwork like sculptures or clay, then I may use my Photo Studio Table Top Box, or I create a white or black setting background for the artwork. This allows me to take photographs from different angles with clean background which will not interfere with the 3D artwork.

What about the light? 
Miss Vanessa, when I take a picture the colors and light looks terrible. 

What light should I use? 
If you are not a photographer and have no idea of how to use fancy light equipment, stay away from indoor lights. My recommendation is to use natural light for taking your pictures. Also, if you are not familiar with the light settings on your camera, just use the auto setting. 

What is a good natural light? 
Overcast works best.  Bright sunshine does not.  If it too bright, look for a place where the light is not direct.  Direct light on the bright colors might over saturate your artwork.

Best time to take pictures? 
The best light is before 10 am or after 4pm. It is a soft light. 

Do I want you use the flash on my camera? 
It depends. If your painting or artwork is shiny, the answer is no. You will get reflections. I usually avoid auto flashes. But sometimes when I am not doing a close up I might use it. 

Should I take pictures of my artwork before I frame it? 
YES. You don't want to wait until you frame it to take a picture of your artwork, specially if your artwork requires glass. Glass creates reflections,  so it will be impossible to take a good picture of your artwork with it.

Do you use software to edit your pictures? 

Yes I do. On the iPhone, I use the one that comes with it. You can crop, create contrast, etc. I don't go overboard. On my computer, I use iPhoto, Photoshop and and at times Lightroom. Usually I crop, align, sharpen and contrast pictures.

One final note before posting your artwork or printing it or sending it to an art contest, make sure that you only show the artwork itself. Specially if you are sending it to a contest.  Avoid showing the frames or backgrounds. Take the picture and edit it so it only shows the artwork. That said, sometimes you might want to use your background to set up your picture.  I’ll talk about this in another blog post.

The good thing about today's technology is that you can take as many pictures as you want until you get a couple that work.  Go and try different settings on your camera until you find the one that best works for you. Use the tips I gave you above and take a couple of pictures. See how they look, edit them and then you are done.

I hope you find this post useful. Next post will be about affordable framing. Ideas on how to frame your artwork without having to break your piggy bank.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for the insightful and informative information

    ReplyDelete

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