View Full Version : Photographing your work.

Leslie Pz
01-29-2007, 07:30 PM
How do you photograph your work? I have been fighting with taking good photos of my artwork to show you all and to list paintings on ebay and would love some tips.

Where I used to live we had a barn attached to our house. After we put the girls to sleep we'd snap on the room monitor and head out to the barn where my husband had his office and I had a dinky table set up to paint. There we'd spend many many hours together working and watching tv. The lighting was great and I never had to worry about taking photos of my artwork.

Now things are very different. Taking photos of my art is a struggle (and taking photos of my still life set ups are difficult also but that's another thread). I wait for the "right time of day" and for "just the right lighting" and find the e-photos are still not done well.

I'd love to hear how other people take their photos and maybe any secrets that anyone might want to share. I know I am not the only one with this problem so I am sure any info would be great info.


01-29-2007, 08:04 PM
Hi Leslie, I'll be watching this closely as I have the very same problem. I live in the n east where it's overcast every day, blah! Sorry I don't have an answer for you. I've even tried setting up my tripod, but the flash overcompensates and you get washed out colors and glare. I too have a problem with photos of still lifes, wanting to get nice shadows aand dark areas, but the bloody flash ruins the effect, and w/o a flash every thing goes gray and grainy. Can anyone help us!? Please!

Leslie Pz
01-29-2007, 08:08 PM
I live in New Hampshire so I know what you mean by overcast and blah!

BUT!!! I find for photographing my paintings it helps a LITTLE. (Otherwise I find a bit of a glare on my paintings...)

Fun to know there is someone as bummed as I!!!

01-29-2007, 08:12 PM
although outdoor lighting is optimal and I prefer setting up with the sun behind me, it's not always practical so I have a bunch of lamps with various watt bulbs.

Indoors or out I generally use a tripod set at the same level as the painting, the painting is either on a display easle that is propped up as vertically as possible or, if inside, on a shelf and propped vertically.

I have a white tablecloth and a dark blue one to act as backdrops (some pictures come out better with a dark background) and I try to fill as much of the view screen as possible with the painting.

When all else fails I take the best of the bad and tweak it in paintshop:lol:

If its a quick shot like for a question or wip, I try to get the lighting as close as possible and take the pic from a stable position

Ian Bruce
01-29-2007, 09:19 PM
I just asked the same question in the Photography Forum and was given this link. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/2810/87/. I have trouble photographing my paintings indoors. Outside, in the shade, I have no difficulty. (I find if it is overcast, I don't have to be in the shade). I set the White Balance on my digital camera to a sheet of white paper over the painting (or the back of the painting) and shoot away. Works out well almost always. That link gives some very good suggestions for working inside (my bugbear).

01-29-2007, 10:00 PM
I don't know what it is worth but for many years I would photograph work on a bright day with the painting facing south, the image side that is. Between 8 and 11 a.m. if possible. the sun would be almost at a 45 angle to the surface. This would give a slightly warm color and few shadows. It really made a difference.

On three dimensional works it really made for wonderful shadows which was a good thing.

Over the past few years as I have had a bit of money I would buy some parts to create a fair system for photowork.

I got a Canon digital 35mm SLR camera with a 50 mm lens. A sturdy tripod, a shutter release cable. Two light stands and I recently added two quartz halogen photo flood lights. To round it all out I got a polarizing filter for the lens and then two sheet polarizing filters for the photofloods. I set up a 4X4' sheet of homosote which is covered in black cloth and attached that to a wall. I measured the center of the wall and placed a piece of tape on the floor to mark that center point from afar.

Using a level I placed two pins on the homosote wall that were level and even. I can hang a painting on those and be relatively close to level. I use a level to double check that when the painting is in place adjusting as needed.

I put all of this away every time I photograph a work so I have marked spots on the floor where the photofloods go for easier set up. I set them and then focus the light to the far side of the painting while in place. Make sure they crisscross focused to give even lighting.

I attach the polarizing filters making sure the direction of the filters are appropriately aligned.

Most recently I have been photographing in the RAW format using a bracketing setting on the camera.

So far it seems that I have been able to do a fairly decent job of photographing. I have been able to use these images for postcards and handouts with some success.


01-29-2007, 10:04 PM
Another recent acqusition was a metallic reflector disc for highlighting the metallics. It is a marvel.

I thought this was a marvelous set up if money weren't an issue.


Lady Carol
01-29-2007, 10:52 PM
I photograph my work at all times of the day and correct for the exposure using RAWShooter Premium. Thus saying I shoot in RAW. I have a digital SLR, Canon REBEL and a Canon 20D and my hubby has REBEL XTI. RAW is a completely different format for shooting in and part of the problem with jpegs is that half the sensor information is lost before you start. RAW collects all the information off the sensor. It is very easy to do white balances and adjust levels. Bracketing can help with RAW and merging of the bracketed images in Photoshop. Some more recent cameras automatically merge the bracketed images in the camera but I do not have one of those.

RAW definitely is the way to go but the cameras that have those capabilities tend to be on the pricier side.

Leslie Pz
01-29-2007, 11:11 PM
Thank you Doc and Ian! Such great ideas! Hoping others are reading and also learning! Thanks for the link!!!

Howard- your system is quite elaborate! I'd be proud of what I have and the talent in photographing art! Do you do this as a biz? I know artists would appreciate it!

Carol- You really have quite the electronic background! LOL! I am still translating 1/2 of what you said!

Mark Newton
01-29-2007, 11:46 PM
I shoot my paintings often after hours because that's when I tend to finish working on them, so no sun available. I will use ambient light from the shed lights, or sometomes off camera flash, situated so there is little to no glare off the surface. If I cannot establish the correct colour balance in camera I make adjustments using imaging software and I use jpg rather than the more memory draining RAW or NEF as Nikon calls it. I find altering levels or doing colour corrections in jpg to be no problem, been doing it for years now and originally as a publisher. Basically you really need to learn how to do some image manipulation using the various software available. It's not rocket science, you'd soon pick it up.....but when using a digital camera levels adjustments are very important and virtually always necessary. Good luck..

01-30-2007, 03:26 AM
I photograph my work in natural daylight (out of the sun) with it laying flat on the floor and the main light source at the top of the work. There are fewer reflections from this position. I photograph it BEFORE I varnish as well. Fairly simple and it works pretty well as far as colour correctness goes.

01-30-2007, 04:14 AM
I do the same as Elaine, and take lots of photos! in different 'modes' of the camera.
The colour I find difficult to capture accurately though, is red, if it's the only colour of the painting, as some of mine tend to be.

01-30-2007, 04:39 AM
I take my photos outside in the shade. Painting against the wall. I standing right opposite the painting a few metres away. If it's too dark I take my photos inside with flashlight. But then I stand at an angle to avoid a glare and correct the format in my photoprogramme.

01-30-2007, 07:57 AM
"Bracketing can help with RAW and merging of the bracketed images in Photoshop. Some more recent cameras automatically merge the bracketed images in the camera"


Never heard of merging images like this, please explain further.

L. This is really a very simple system. Two lights and a camera with a wall.

I don't do this as a business but I do assist other artists to get better images of their work. Good images are important for scholarships, grants, show entries, marketing and other such devices. When I was using a pro photographer it was always miserable. They would take up to three weeks to get the images done. My orders were small potatoes when you have clients like Sunkist and Chris Craft Boats. So I was low on the food chain and just had to wait but the work was so good it was worth the wait until I was missing entry dates waiting then things had to change.

Now I can have good images and slides in short order. Generally in less than 15 minutes I can have a fairly good image and in 48 hours I can have slides and if really pressed in 24 hours. A long wait for me would be about 4 to 5 days. I also have better control over the final image and can manipulate as needed.

01-30-2007, 08:32 AM
Ian, that link has a LOT of good info! Unfortunately it barely mentions using a digital camera

01-30-2007, 11:52 AM
I am having the same problem and while I belive Howard system is very effective at producing photos, I am not inclined to go and upgrade my camera, when all I want to do is upload the photos to this web site.
I have a Kodak 3.2 , and while I would love to afford a better camera, this is what I'v got for now.
But I have 3 paintings and I cannot get a sinlge good shot of any of them worth showing here. They are either too dark when I have them in natural light, or the flash produces a glare that washes the painting out. Have tried tweaking them in Photoshop, but I never seem to get a true Photo of the original painting.
I thought it was just problem i was having, but others must be having the same issue with taking photos.
By the way it is better in the summer I just do it outside. But today it is -27c with the wind shield. NOT an option.
So if there are any tips for taking pictures with the type of camera I have would love to hear them.

John A. Roof
01-30-2007, 12:02 PM
I must assume that you all have a digital camera. Here it what I did I upgraged to a better camera w/ setting that allow you to take photos of your work no matter when or what the conditions are. Next I joined a photo club this helped alot. next I am looking for a book titled "shooting your artwork for real dummies". I have not found the book yet. take care john

01-30-2007, 12:15 PM
Yes it is digital. May I ask what was the camera you bought. What should I be looking for in a new camera. I would hate to invest the money and end up with problems.....either the same or new ones!

John A. Roof
01-30-2007, 12:25 PM
I bought a Sony 7.2 megapixels w/12x about 400 to 500 dollars the one I wanted was Cannon 10 megapixels about 800 dollars. but the Sony woks find for me. a find talk me into getting it. find a photo club visit and ask them what they recommend also check out ebay they have alot of camera listed or did. take care john

Leslie Pz
01-30-2007, 02:26 PM
Assumption correct; I do have a digital camera... a pretty decent one too. Just not the lighting. And really have no space to set up anything elaborate because I have no studio -- just paint at the kitchen counter.

Roger Evans
01-30-2007, 02:37 PM
I use a Digital Rebel and I shoot my paintings under our patio cover usually in the early morning before there is any direct sunlight to avoid deep shadows from the weave of the canvas. I prop painting up at an angle and align the camera so that is is straight on and use the longest focal length I can to avoid distortion (which will happen, anyway). I then shoot several different exposures without moving the tripod. I then copy them all onto the same Photoshop canvas and will make duplicate layers and adjust each layer according to items within that layer of interest. I may adjust one layer specifically for the sky but not care about the rest of the painting. I may adjust another layer specifically for the skin tones but not the sky or the grass, etc. Then it is a matter of using the erase tool to get rid of what I don't want from each layer. After doing so, I can then balance out the remaining layers with each other until they more closely resemble the painting as it looks in real life. Finally, I flatten and save a copy of the image and use the "distort" tool to (ironically) remove distortion from the photographic process until it matches the correct aspect ratio of the original painting. Involved but I think the shots on my website are pretty accurate to my paintings, in terms of tone and color.


John A. Roof
01-30-2007, 03:00 PM
Yes I agree but Question. the shows I sent to generally ask for untouch digital images. I fount that just setting the camera for the condition usally get me there. take care john

01-30-2007, 04:15 PM
I find photographing difficult too - somebody at my art group gave me this link for a free guide which has helped me:

Lady Carol
01-30-2007, 05:40 PM
I use jpg rather than the more memory draining RAW or NEF as Nikon calls it.
Memory is free though, so who cares if the images size is over 3 MB when you are carrying a 4GB card.

Howard, Photoshop can do a whole load of functions in an order like merging bracketed images. You just have to set up the rule for that and it automatically does the merge, or white balance or whatever it is.

01-30-2007, 06:35 PM
A couple of simple tips I've been implementing lately & I use a very basic HP digital camera:

1. Shelley P. suggested this - when photographing a painting w/predominantly cool colors, photograph against a warm background (I use a sheet/towel) and visa versa. It seems to help the camera's auto settings adjust better.
2. Try putting a little piece of paper towel or tissue over the camera's flash to diffuse the light. Worth a try for those of us not photographers!

01-30-2007, 08:59 PM
I have tried the suggestion made by Howard with regard to the lighting. Even with my 3.5 mega pix. my results were much better. Check out "View with a Window" forum to see the results. I will try the cool/warm background as it might help with another painting I did
Thanks Guys

01-31-2007, 06:37 AM
I've had somewhat decent luck with a 3.2mp camera, but it really depends on the camera. Some are much better at reducing vibration and capturing detail. I now use a very old but very good 5mp with no problem.

I photograph outside out of direct sunlight, lightly overcast days are perfect. I almost always photograph at a slight angle and then adjust in Photoshop. One tip: if you're going to gloss varnish then sometimes it's easier to photograph before varnish (unless there are still high gloss areas or a lot of variable finishes). If you're going to matte varnish then photograph after you varnish. :)


Charlie's Mum
01-31-2007, 05:33 PM
Well, I got lost somewhere around post #2!!!!!!! :eek:

One of the tips from a photographer in another forum in response to another member trying to get the colour right with oranges was to place it against a blue background - similar to what Celeste was saying I think.

I did buy a tripod - that got rid of the camera shake :lol:

When indoors, I just try to get an even light from around, rather than on, the painting .... but I'm definitely not a photographer!

02-02-2007, 01:24 PM
This thread has been helpful to me. When I take pics with my lousy digital camera, I just adjust the color in my photo program. Maybe I'll try taking them outside and see if I get better results... when it's above freezing that is! :rolleyes:

02-02-2007, 01:35 PM
This is a great topic with some terrific ideas! I have a Sony digital too and love it. I would tell you what model it is but I had it sitting out yesterday to catch some pics of the snow. Apparently my cat Frankie has run off with it. He is a thief! I hope he hasn't broken it. That darned cat!