Presentation is everything; especially on the internet where the only impression you can make is what is seen by the viewer. A poor presentation can make the difference between getting a sale or not and being accepted into an on-line show or a show requiring submissions on disc. For the judges to get an accurate idea of your art, the image you send must match the colors in the art and be sharp and clear.
For many of us, taking a good photograph of our art is hard. Before sending off the photo of your art your art, make sure that the size of the photo agrees with the directions given by the prospectus, and that the image is sharp, clear and not distorted. Then check the colors in the photo against the actual art to make sure they are correct. I am not a professional photographer, but I do manage to take credible photos of my work without paying a pro to do it for me. Even if you are only making a record of your work, you will want it to be as close to the original as possible. Here are a few tips that might help those of us who are “photo challenged”:
Take the photo in an area that doesn’t cast shadows or cause glares on the work. Personally, I prefer to take my photos outside on a clear day using indirect sunlight, but since most art will be displayed indoors, indoor lighting is also okay. I don’t use an elaborate set up; I have simply put nails into the Garage Door at the appropriate height for the camera and then I rest the painting’s stretcher bars on the nails. If you are using paper or canvas sheets, you can attach the sticky stuff teachers use to hang students artwork on the wall to the back of the art (after making sure your art is level).
Check that the sun isn’t glaring on the work so there are no shinny surfaces to reflect back at the camera lens. If you are working with watercolor or pastel, then take the photo before you frame it because glass will reflect back at the camera. I also take the photo before I varnish acrylics to cut down on the glare caused by the varnish. Oils are naturally shiney so be extra careful no bright light shows in the photo.
If your camera is set up to put a polarizing filter over the lens, it may be worth your while to buy one, especially if you work in Oil paints or other naturally shiney mediums. If your camera won’t take a filter, you can try the “poor man’s sub” and buy a pair of polarizing sun glasses and put them in front of your lens. The only real issue I see with this cheap fix is that the lens on the sunglasses may not be flat and so create a bubble effect on the photo.
In order to avoid distorting the image, the art should be hung on a flat surface. If the final photo is wider at the bottom than the top or vice versa, perhaps your hanging surface isn’t flat and you will need to take corrective action in your photo-editing program or find another surface.
Aim your camera squarely at the art. It helps to use a tripod; you can align the front two feet of the tripod squarely with the art so that you aren’t taking the photo at an angle that will cause one side of the art to be larger than the other. If necessary, use a tape measure to make sure the feet are an equal distance from the art, and check that the camera isn’t twisted on the tripod. A tripod also helps to prevent blurring is caused by your hand shaking. Most of us don’t think our hand moves when pushing the button, but it does.
Use a small hand level to ensure that the camera is not angled either down or up when taking the photo as this will also cause distortion. A laser pointer (your pets toy is adequate) laid alongside the lens when measuring will also help you to line up your lens on your art.
You don’t need an expensive camera just to take photos of your art. Canon makes an excellent quality digital camera for under $300 and it is very user friendly. As a plus, the newer models also take video so you can use the video setting to record art shows or yourself when creating the art, and then upload to Facebook, U-tube and other social network sites.
However if you are planning to make large-size reproductions of your work then a good SLR camera should be on your list. SLR stands for single-lens reflex. This type of camera allows you take enormous photos, which translate well into prints as large as 48 x 60 without blurring.
The newer smart phones also take adequate photos if all you want is a good photo of your art and don’t intend to use the photo to make prints to sell. Unfortunately, they don’t take a photo with enough pixels to be useful for full size prints. Someday, maybe, but not quite yet.
When taking the initial (raw) photo of your work, be sure to set your camera to take fine or large files and take at least 3 exposures of each artwork.
I find the least expensive and easiest to use photo-editing program, is Adobe Photoshop Elements. It has tutorials and is easy to learn. Before making any additional copies, check for any corrective actions that you need to take; you can then make additional copies at different resolutions.
Look first for distortions. Photoshop makes it easy to correct the distortions caused by not having your camera lined up correctly with the artwork.
Next, check the contrast of the photo against the original if is dull then increase the contrast if necessary.
The next step is to check the actual color and correct it if the image shows too much blue, green or red.
Your last step should be to crop the photo of your work so that only the work shows. I usually also crop a very tiny piece of the edges as well to keep the curve on the edge of my canvas from appearing as a distortion. Then save the photo as a PDF so you can go back to it in its original form. Save it again as a tiff image and then as a jpeg. You will be working with the jpeg format, but this format does develop a slight blurring or distortion when saved multiple times.
YOU NEED THREE TYPES OF JPEG IMAGES FOR THE WEB
Image No 1should be a large resolution image (between 1 and 2 MB between 300 – 600 pixels per inch) POD sites usually demand a large high-resolution image to make prints; usually between 38,000 and 60,000 pixels on a side.
Image No 2should be a medium/low resolution image to put on your website and submit to prospective galleries or anyone else who needs to see your work. This size is (between 1 – 2 KB at 72 pixels/inch or adjust the widest side to be between 7 and 10 inches) and will be large enough to allow the viewer to see the art. It is too small to encourage attempts to pirate your image because it probably won’t make prints any larger than a 5 x 7 without blurring, but you can add digital watermarking with Elements or other watermarking programs.
Image No 3should be small image (between 200 and 125 pixels at the widest edge) for thumbnail images and record keeping; for those of you who prefer sizes given in inches, the widest edge should be no more than 4”.
Keep a photo log with both high- and low- resolution photos of your work separately from your desktop computer; the new flash drives are excellent for this or you can use one of the on-line backup programs. A working copy can be kept on your desktop or tablet but be sure and back up your files each month onto a separate disc or jump drive. Keep the back-up copies of these items in a separate place and up-date your back-ups monthly. There are also some cloud features that will enable you to automatically back-up your digital files (for a price). While these are handy to use, if you are late paying the monthly fee, how do you reclaim your images? Once your records are lost due to computer crashes, natural disaster or any other reason they are gone. I consider it vitally important to have an off-line storage of my art photos. Good Luck!
Other Links:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvR7fCQLQyIis a video tutorial you may also find helpful.
Presentation is everything; especially on the internet where the only impression you can make is what is seen by the viewer. A poor presentation can make the difference between getting a sale and being accepted into an on-line show. I am not a professional photographer, but I do manage to take credible photos of my work without paying a pro to do it for me. Here are a few tips that might help those of us who are “photo challenged”: