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How to Photograph Art for Publicity

By: Catherine Burrows - Updated: 2 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
How To Photograph Art For Publicity

Digital photography has made the process of reproducing art so much simpler. Digital images are used for online sales and publicity, insurance purposes or as a useful way to catalogue work. There are a few rules that will help you to achieve the truest images possible. The difference between a good image and a bad snap can make all the difference to making a sale.

The Camera

Two types of camera are widely used, the traditional SLR camera or its modern digital relation. If you are planning to upload the images onto a computer, digital cameras are your best option. The images are stored as files ready to be uploaded immediately.

Throwing Light onto It

How to light the art is one of the trickiest aspects of the entire process. Without question, the very best source of light is natural daylight. All artificial light throws a ‘cast’ onto the colour and will affect the end result. Natural daylight is potentially as neutral as you can make the lighting.

Try and take the pictures as close to the middle of the day as possible. Maximise the lighting available by taking the photos outdoors.

Avoid the extreme ends of the day, as the morning and evening light has its own peculiar, albeit stunning light qualities. A red sunset will do very little for your art. Glaring, direct sunlight is equally disastrous; choose a position for the art that enjoys clear, indirect sunlight.

Avoid using the flash on your camera as this will throw unnatural glares onto the artwork. This is particularly important if the artwork is framed using glass. The glass will act as a mirror and the photograph will be terrible. If you must keep the glass, make sure it’s scrupulously clean and experiment with the angle at which you shoot.

To optimise the effect of the light on your artwork, use a plain, neutral backdrop for the art. The perfect backdrop would be a matt, black fabric like velvet. It’s perfectly sheer and absorbs light which means that the colours in your art are allowed to speak for themselves.

In The Frame

Taking a good photo of art depends on a perfectly parallel image. Imagine a film between the lens of your camera and the work of art. The art, the film and the lens all need to lie at an accurate parallel line to each other. This will stop any image distortion. The art should fill your view-finder in order to minimise the amount of post-production tweaking.

Capture your digital image by propping the art against a wall and mirroring the angle with your camera. Alternatively, lay it on the floor and take the photograph from above. If you have any doubts about having a steady hand or getting those parallel lines just right, use a tripod.

Post- Photographic Tweaking

There are some brilliant digital packages available that will bring the best out of your art photography. Conduct some research and see which package is most commonly used by online gallery hosting companies.

Use this facility to correct contrast, sharpness and colour integrity. Don’t make the mistake of over-correcting; your digital image has to be as close to the original as possible. Some important purchasing decisions may be made on the strength of your photography.

And Finally...

Save the images in a master TIFF file which gives the most faithful reproduction of your images. Use JPEG files to upload onto websites though. Although they have some effect on the quality of the digital files, they work much better on websites.

A word of warning, don’t load too high a resolution of your images. Anything above 400 dpi (dots per inches) is of such high quality that it can be poached from the website and used illegally. If you are still worried, use a subtle copyright notice below the images.

Photographing artwork isn’t rocket science. It involves a lot of common sense and a little experimentation. The results are potentially stunning, bringing the work to an even wider audience.

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