Visual Arts - Photographing Artwork


So you have a piece of artwork and need to display it online, submit it in a digital portfolio, or have a digital print made?  We'll walk you through setting up your artwork to be photographed and digitized.

Setting Up Your Art and Lighting

Hang your piece on a wall, or lean it up against a plain hard surface against a wall.  If it's three dimensional, put it in front of a plain wall or surface, so as not to distract from it.

When setting up lighting, you'll want to reduce shadows.  You want to have the piece well lit, but not over-lit.  The goal is to have an accurate representation of how a person would naturally see it.  Choose two identical light sources with two identical bulbs.  Colored bulbs, even soft-white, have a certain hue that can cause discoloration.  Your best bet are 'daylight' type bulbs, as these emit a more natural looking light.

Place the light sources equidistant from each other and the painting, so that the light sources are at a 45 degree angle to the surface of the art (see diagram below).  You'll want to make sure the lights are the same height as the middle of the art, as this will also minimize shadow effect.



Setting Up Your Camera

With anything else, the logic is the same:  the better the camera, the better the result.  You can, however, get a great picture out of a typical point and shoot camera without having to spent $1,000 on a DSLR camera.  The key is setting it up correctly.

Start by setting the camera up on a tripod or a flat, stable surface.  If you've leaned your work against the wall on a flat surface, it will be slightly angled, so you'll have to compensate for this by angling the camera to the same degree.  Square the lens of the camera to the center of the piece.  Shooting from an angle distorts the true dimensions of the piece, so make sure the shot is level.

Since you're using controlled lighting, turn off your camera's flash.  Flashes tend to create unwanted glares in parts of the photo, so it's best never to use the flash in this situation.  Try your camera's auto setting and see how the picture turns out.  In the video, we used the auto setting to get an idea of some general parameters as far as exposure and aperture, then adjusted further as needed.  It's usually best in this situation to use an ISO around 100-350 and an aperture of around f5-f8.  

Zoom the lens in a bit.  Lenses are at their clearest when slightly zoomed in.  Move the camera in so that the frame is as tight as possible without cropping out any of your art.  If the piece is three dimensional, frame the shot around the piece with a little room to breathe.  This will maximize the resolution of the photo without having to zoom in during post-production.


Shooting and Post-Production

Take a few shots and look at the results.  Check your shots on your computer screen before finishing up, as you'll be able to see the clearest representation of the photo here.  Make any adjustments if necessary and take a few more shots.  When you're satisfied, transfer the pictures to your computer.

There are some simple native photo editing programs in both Mac and Windows computers.  In Mac, use iPhoto, and in Windows, use Windows Live Photo Editor.  Don't go too crazy on editing, because if the shot looks bad, you're better served retaking the photo.  Crop out extraneous piece so that only your piece is in the shot.  Adjust the color, brightness, and contrast as necessary, and touch up any anomalies in the photo.  When you're done, export to a full quality jpeg or uncompressed png format.  Regarding DPI, we recommend a resolution of 72dpi, as these images will be previewed from within a browser and will load the images simultaneously.  In our experience, we've found that 300dpi images are too large all be loaded simultaneously on a page, and unnecessary as computer monitors are 72dpi.  When your files have exported, you're ready to upload!

Was this article helpful?
0 out of 0 found this helpful
Have more questions? Submit a request