10 Tips for Photographing Your Own Paintings

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photographing your own paintingsAt some point you will need to photograph your paintings as it will be necessary to provide images for promotion on a website, to enter your work in juried shows, to present it to galleries, or for printing in marketing materials such as brochures, etc. Good photos can make all difference when it comes to selling your paintings or finding the right gallery to promote your work.

The following tips will help you to take some reasonably good photographs of your own paintings. For the times when you need quality, high resolution images to be used in printed materials such as magazines, giclee, posters, books, etc., you might want to consider hiring a professional photographer.

Equipment you will need:

    • Camera — with minimum 12.1 megapixels, batteries, and memory card
    • Tripod — one that is stable and will hold the weight of your camera 
    • Lighting kit — for indoor photo shoots

Tip #1: Photograph your artwork on a flat surface (such as a wall) with a grey, black or white background. Hang the work with the center of the painting right at eye level. It is best to hang the painting on the wall rather than leaning it against the wall. For larger paintings, they can be laid flat on the floor and then shot from above looking down.

Tip #2: Take your picture square on from its centermost point, not from an angle. Carefully align the edges of your painting in the viewfinder or LCD of the camera. Make sure the sides are straight and tops and bottoms are level, the slightest tilt or angle will distort the view making your art look like a trapezoid in the picture.

Tip #3: Take your painting out of its frame and remove any matting before photographing to prevent any unwanted shadows. If you can’t take it out of the frame or matt, then it can be cropped out later using Photoshop. Also it’s not a good idea to photograph a picture under glass as it can cause unwanted reflections and glare.

Tip #4: When shooting your photo get the entire image in the frame with a little bit of the background. You can crop out the background later using Photoshop or some other photo manipulation software.

Tip #5: Use a photo editing software program, such as Photoshop, to improve your images. Crop out any background, frame or matting, if need be. It can also be used color correct your pictures, balance contrast and eliminate any distortions.

Tip #6: Use a tripod with your camera at eye level with the center of your painting when photographing your art. The most common cause of blurry photos is a shaky camera. Still photography is best done using a tripod. Place the tripod at a distance far enough away where your painting will fill almost all of the viewfinder or LCD, yet you are not too close to get distortions.

Tip #7: For the best results, set your camera to the largest size it can take photos at and also at the finest quality of picture. This will utilize your digital camera to the maximum of its megapixels capability. Refer to your camera manual to determine which is the best size for your purposes.

Tip #8: Choose the following camera settings:

    • Color mode: Adobe RGB (not sRGB)
    • Image size: Set to the largest size your camera can produce
    • Image format: Use RAW or TIFF. JPEG format is best used for the Web
    • ISO (which corresponds to the film speed setting on a film camera): 100
    • White balance: Set the white balance to match the type of bulbs you’re using in your floodlights. (Recommend daylight-balanced – 5,000 K-bulbs)
    • Exposure control: Manual mode
    • Flash: Turn off
    • Aperture and f-stops: f8 for most lenses
    • Shutter speed: Without a tripod — don’t use a shutter speed below 60, or the motion of your body will result in blurry photos. With a tripod — don’t go below 30.

Tip #9: Photographing outdoors — The best light source for photographing your paintings is outdoor, indirect sunlight. Natural, indirect light will show your art better than any other light.

    • Photograph when it is cloudy or overcast sky
    • Mid-morning ’til mid-afternoon (10 am – 4 pm)  is the best time
    • Position your painting so sunlight falls on the top, at an angle well above straight-on, especially from the left and your art will look more closely to the actual piece.

Tip #10: Photographing indoors — Choose a well lit room to set up your photo shoot in. A room where you can shine light evenly on all sides of the artwork. Lighting is extremely important in producing correct color. Turn off the room lights and use only one light source to illuminate your painting.

    • Block the windows and set up your lights. Do your best to use one light source. For evenly lit shots, position two 500-watt floodlights on either side of the art. Make sure the light is bright and uniform throughout the room.
    • Be careful to not shoot your art near color objects. Those objects’ color(s) can reflect in the art.
    • Turn the flash off on your camera. If not, the flash will produce “hot spots” on your art.

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 22 April 2016

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