Not all artists have access to professional photo equipment, and even if you have access, you might still lack the skills to portray your work correctly. Here is our guide on how to photograph your art – with limited equipment.
As most open calls require digital samples of your artwork and your online presence depends on digital material, you’ll need good photographs of your art – there’s no way around it. But, as long as your work is two dimensional, why not scan?
There are a few reasons: First of all, if you don’t have a high-end scanner, a camera can produce a more accurate representation of your work. Also, you might not be able to scan an artwork with a lot of texture, and there’s also the issue with size limitations – your artwork might just be too large to scan.
Of course, high-end photo equipment would allow you to control the outcome of the photo even more. But this requires extensive photo knowledge and the money to rent or buy the equipment. Or, alternatively, the money to hire a professional photographer. With these tips, you’ll be able to photograph your art without a fancy DSLR or studio light.
Photograph in daylight
Shooting in the right light is the most important tip on this list. Light is a photographer’s best friend, regardless of equipment. And with limited resources, it is even more vital. Take your artwork away from artificial light and place it in natural daylight.
Daylight contains all the different color wavelengths that your household lamps do not. Meaning, natural daylight will give you the best chance to photograph the colors of your work accurately.
Make sure to avoid direct sunlight. Find a spot in the shadow outside or photograph inside, choose a spot with a lot of even natural light, and turn off all other light sources. This will help you photograph for example a sculpture without it casting shadows or catching light reflections.
If you are photographing a painting, you could also place it on the floor, next to an open door. The sidelight coming from the door will show the depth in your work and enhance details like brush marks. Making sure that you don’t lose those small details of your work that you’ve spent hours perfecting.
Think about the perspective
If you have laid your work on the floor, make sure to stand right above it and shoot straight down. You can turn on the grid in your phone camera to align with. If you’ve hung it on a wall, think about matching your photo angle with the canvas. In case you have access to a tripod, the level on it will help you angle your camera correctly, but you can also manage without this. You can download an app like Bubble Level to easily find the right angle.
You might’ve noticed that sometimes when you photograph, straight edges look warped. Perspective distortion happens for a variety of reasons. For example, your phone shoots in wide-angle and will warp the edges of your artwork if you shoot it from a close distance. This applies both to canvases and other pieces.
The solution is to try different distances and see which one works the best. Try holding the camera even further away than you would expect; this will help reduce the optical lens distortion.
Choose the right background
It should go without saying, that you don’t want a cluttered background to take away from your artwork. But still, the internet is full of these kinds of photos. Find a clean white background, or at least a monochromatic one, to shoot your work against. You don’t want any distractions, so avoid someone holding the piece for the photograph, unless that’s part of your creative vision.
If you have worked your angles properly and photographed the artwork with the right perspective, you can easily crop out the background.
Give your photos a final touch in editing
After following these tips on how to photograph your art, you might feel that the photo still doesn’t represent the real piece. This can be fixed using a photo editing program. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, you can use the free software PIXLR, or apps like VSCO and Snapseed, to give the photo the last punch.
A rule of thumb is to make the photo look like the physical artwork – don’t over-edit! Usually, you just need to adjust contrast, brightness, and white balance to achieve the desired result.
For an extensive guide on how to photograph your work with an iPhone, we recommend the article 9 Common Mistakes when Photographing your Artwork with an iPhone (and how to fix them) by Will Kemp.