Today’s blog is about different ways you can improve the photos you take of your art. These tips are for the beginner artist (or anyone who still struggles) to help make your art look its best while sharing online, making prints, or entering shows and publications. My goal is to give you some tips to use what you have to improve on what you’re already doing.
And as a disclaimer, I’m not a professional photographer so these will be very basic tips using what you most likely already have on hand that I’ve learned along my own art journey.
I’ve dug deep to find some of my older photos to show the difference that these little corrections can make. You can find the improved picture all the way to the right throughout the post.
1. Adjust Your Lighting
One of the absolute biggest ways to improve how your artwork looks in photos is to adjust your lighting. Ideal conditions would be to take a picture outside during an overcast day. While cloudy days are numerous where I live in New York, it’s not always convenient to go outside every time you need to photograph something. Find a space with good natural light such as near a window. Avoid using incandescent lights that give off a yellow light and instead look for white daylight bulbs if you need to take pictures when catching daylight isn’t possible.
These two examples show the difference between poor lighting with incandescent bulbs (left) and using daylight (right). You can see how much more accurately the photos on the right represent the original artwork.
2. Watch Your Shadows & Reflections
Similar to good lighting, is watch out for shadows and reflections. Make sure that you’re not standing in front of your light source and casting a shadow onto your work or that any other objects aren’t creating shadows.
If possible, photograph the artwork before it’s framed or varnish is applied to minimize reflections. If you do need to photograph after a work has been framed/varnished, find an angle that has the least amount of reflections. I’ve found for me that laying it flat seems to work best and then photograph it from above.
3. Simplify Your Background
Using a simple neutral background can really make your artwork pop. It can be as simple as putting the work on a plain white wall (or other neutral color wall) to photograph. Other options for backgrounds if you want to change things up are to use poster board, matboard, fabric, or wrapping paper to create a background. There are all sorts of colors and patterns available. I personally have a poster board with a driftwood pattern I use occasionally that I found for a couple bucks at the craft store.
In the left photo you can see how distracting the background can be to really viewing the art. Staging the artwork can be a great idea to show how your art looks in real spaces (not pictured).
4. Square Up the the Art
If you’re photographing your work for prints or show entries, squaring up your work to the camera will be very helpful. By lining up all the edges of the artwork with the sides of the camera it will help avoid cutting off pieces of your artwork during the cropping process or distorting your image.
If you’re taking a photo for social media, having your artwork at an angle or stylized in some way can be a fun choice sometimes.
5. Use a Tripod & Timer
If you have a tripod and timer they can be very helpful to keep the camera still while taking the shot. Sometimes while even pressing the button when the camera is on a tripod it can slightly shake the camera and the image can come out blurry. Many smart phones have timer features on them if you look through the different options/settings.
And if you don’t have a tripod, you can create a makeshift one or prop up the phone against something. (I’m kind of wishing that I had easy access to some of the different things I’ve MacGuyver-ed over the years – maybe something I can put together for a future post).
6. Pay Attention to Your Resolution
Generally speaking, the higher the resolution, the clearer the picture will remain the bigger you make it. For posting on social media something like 72 dpi is fine, while for making prints or submitting to publications 300-600 dpi is more standard. If you’re submitting to a publication or show be sure to follow the guidelines that they supply.
Which tip did you find most helpful?
I hope you found this helpful! There’s all sorts of fancy photo equipment (special cameras, scanners, light boxes, etc) out there, but this should be able to get you started or help improve what you’re already doing.
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About the Artist
Laura Jaen Smith is an artist who lives and works out of Horseheads, New York. Her inspiration comes from observing the beauty she sees around her. After a decade living out west, she returned back to New York State and started seeing the same old places with new eyes. She is most interested in capturing small moments in nature that might otherwise be overlooked.