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How To Photograph Art

Sorry for any errors on the tips & how to pages. I'm doing this fast.

If you are not savvy with a camera, ask someone who is

This page assumes that photographing and publishing your art is new to you. Make sure to get the best and highest resolution camera. If you cannot afford one, you can borrow from a friend. Cellphone cameras are not advisable. You are after a higher resolution.

The new digital cameras can do the trick

You must be able to match the acceptable quality of your pictures with other artists if your book is a group collaboration. Be considerate and think about what possible issues you might encounter, because if the quality of your photographs do not match those of the rest, you will delay the others or you might not be included in the upcoming book. If you are collaborating with a strict book packager, then you have to meet their standards. If you cannot, then come up with your own group collaboration.

Digital cameras have gotten cheaper

You can use a digital camera if you are not familiar with using a 35mm camera. The instructions on this page is mostly for newbies using a digital camera.

You might make mistakes at first

Here is a quick story. Artist Richard Lau, whom I helped, and who now has three books on Amazon had 200 plus works. He showed me his camera, which was ten years old, and I told him he cannot use it, because the resolution is much lower than what was already cheaply available. We bought a digital camera for under $150. I gave him instructions on how to photograph his works, I even wrote it down. Then he drove for six hours from Chicago to Detroit, spent a few days photographing his works, and drove back to Chicago for another six hours. He gave me his SD card. I looked at them on my laptop.

He produced pictures that were either blurry, had his head's shadow at the lower part, or wasn't well-lit. You can imagine my own frustration because I was ready to use Photoshop and edit his works. There was no way I can adjust and remove the shadows produced by his head. I also cannot sharpen a blurry image.

I told him his pictures were awful. Richard had to return to his Detroit home the following week and take all of his artworks back to Chicago. We figured, if we get to selling even a single piece, he will need to return to Detroit anyway, so he might as well have them in Chicago. That was an oversight on my part, because I was focusing on producing the book first and not worrying about a future sale.

He came back with a total of 273 works! I used his camera and produced 273 acceptable images. I'm saying it's acceptable, because I am familiar with the requirements for producing pictures for print. If you are a gallery or photographer with years of experience photographing art, then you are better off than the instructions on this page.

Use at least two if not more light sources

I prefer using three light sources. You don't need to take "perfect" pictures with studio lighting. At the end of the day, by the time you produce a book, your readers will not know the details of how you photographed the works. Your readers will only know if your pictures are acceptable or not.

If you are photographing a 2-dimensional art piece, like a painting or drawing, Place your light in a way that they indirectly light your art. The art should look evenly lit from your camera's perspective.

Make sure that your head, shoulders or whatever else does not produce a shadow on the canvas.

Using a tripod, the timer and the autofocus

Use a tripod so your hand doesn't wiggle the camera at the moment the image is photographed.

Digital cameras usually have a two- and ten-second timer delay. Two seconds are enough.

Press the button softly to focus the image. Once focused, press harder. Stand back. The camera will click after two seconds.

Be aware that your photograph will not produce exact right angles

This is when you will need Photoshop when editing on your computer.

Get a sheet of paper. Your images in the camera are named in chronological order. Your notes will also be arranged as such. Measure the exact width and height (and maybe even depth) of the works and write it down as you photograph each one of them. In photoshop, make a rectangle that has the width and height ratio similar to your actual art piece. You will use this as a guide / template. Use the corners of the rectangle and drag each corner of the art piece to your template.

Here is a way to label your works and avoid confusion

Get index cards, a thick marker and tape. Write the following for each art piece that you photograph: 1. A number from 1 onwards; 2. The title of the work; 3. The exact dimensions of the work, 4. The medium 5. The year the work was made 6. The artist if there are more than one artists. Tape the label next to the art piece and photograph the art piece with the label.

I like using a dry marker on a sheet of paper that I covered with tape. This way, I don't have to keep taping a new label next to the art pieces. I just use a rag and rewrite on the same surface. You can be as messy as you want, because only the areas of the actual art pieces will show up on the final book.

Position your art to occupy the entire area of the camera's view

Position your camera to get your art piece in 90% to 95% of the camera's view. Don't use the zoom feature to get this coverage. Move your tripod forward and backward as needed per art piece.

Photoshop likes to work with darker images

It is generally easier for Photoshop to adjust the brightness and color of a dark object, than that of a brightly lit art piece. If you suspect that your photographs are a little bright, lower the lighting.

Be aware of the yellows

Yellows can be difficult to capture, so be aware of this. Yellows might be whiter than you want them to be. You can lessen the light hitting your art piece to get a better yellow that can be edited using Photoshop.

Master the camera you are using and take notes

Take notes and write them down on a piece of paper. The way to not lose your notes is to photograph them as well. This way your notes will be filed together with all your photographs. If you need to make notes for yourself as you photograph, this is the way to do it.

Remove your art from glass to avoid glare

Do your best to have absolutely no glare on the works. You must also remove art pieces from glare-free covers. You will discover that those glare-free covers still have a dulling effect on the art pieces. Some art pieces have glossy surfaces - find a way to light the work to avoid all types of glare and reflections.

Again, sorry for any grammatical errors. I will add more to this page in the future. Good Luck! :-)