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How to Photograph Art

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Creating an art portfolio - How to photograph art

Photographing art is relatively simple. There are a few pointers that you should always remember when setting up your art piece for photography. Your art portfolio is important, so always try to get the best shot possible of each and every art piece you produce.

Two dimensional art

Acrylic on canvas - unframed
Acrylic on canvas - unframed | Source
Here is an example of a digital frame treatment added to a photo of one of my paintings.
Here is an example of a digital frame treatment added to a photo of one of my paintings. | Source

How to photograph two dimensional art

  1. Use the best camera you have available. The better the lens quality, the better the photo. Use the best image quality setting when using a digital camera.
  2. Lighting is probably the most important. Light the painting from both sides with your camera in the middle facing the painting. Do not use regular indoor lighting or harsh outdoor lighting.
  3. Outdoor lighting is ideal, but must be diffuse, or coming from all directions. Place the painting on an easel under a shaded area or shoot early in the morning or late in the evening. A cloudy day is perfect for diffuse, soft lighting.
  4. Use a tripod - Most people's hands shake just the tiniest amount which will cause blurring on the final print. A tripod, especially one with a screw in hand held shutter release is ideal. You can also use a digital camera's timer to auto expose the photo. If no tripod is available, use a sturdy hard surface to place the camera.
  5. If you can, use a digital camera. Digital images can be improved quite a bit using photo imaging or editing software. You can try digital frames, auto fixes, brightness and contrast improvements and other photo manipulation. Hint - always save the original and make changes to a copy of the original. Liberal use of the 'undo' function is worth learning.
  6. You can convert film images to digital images by the use of a scanner. Newer scanners will also scan old slides and film.
  7. For paintings, it is also helpful to digitally render them on a wall as they would look hung. This takes some practice and some knowledge of photo manipulation to do. But if you are trying to sell your art, it is worth learning. Otherwise, always list the dimensions of the finished piece of art.
  8. Digital prints are saved with a .jpg extension. This is a compression format standard for photos. You can adjust the amount of compression if needed. Web photos are fine with regular compression. Portfolio shots should be saved with a 'fine' or 'best' setting. The higher the "dpi", the better the image quality.

Three dimensional art photography

Lion sculpture up close
Lion sculpture up close | Source
The same photo digitally converted to black and white
The same photo digitally converted to black and white | Source
Lion photo from a step away
Lion photo from a step away | Source

How to photograph three dimensional art.

  1. The same steps for photographing two dimensional art apply with some additions.
  2. Photograph three dimensional art from several directions. Shoot the left, center front, right, center back and maybe some angles like up and down.
  3. Shoot photos up close and from a few steps back.
  4. A nice background is required for three dimensional art. Choose something that does not interfere or detract from the art.
  5. Try to frame your piece in the camera lens and don't be afraid to get in close for a tight shot.
  6. For small pieces, you will have to learn to shoot with the Macro lens functionality of your camera. For general purposes, you can use your camera's carry strap to measure the distance from lens to object while using the macro settings.
  7. Try not to use the camera flash if possible. The flash will cause glare spots. Use diffuse lighting whenever possible.
  8. Another great thing about digital photography is that you can convert color photos to black and white photos which enhance details.
  9. Take many more shots than you think you are going to need. Really great photographers take thousands of photos just to find that 'perfect' shot.
  10. If you are taking photographs for an object for sale, be sure to include some sort of measuring device for size comparison. Good objects to use are rulers, coins, dollar bills, a person (if it is a really large object), etcetera. You could also add text to a commercial photo that gives the exact dimensions of the piece.

Excellent 'How to Photograph Art' video!

DIY? or hire a professional?

Would you like to photograph your own art? Or hire a professional photographer?

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© 2012 Lela

Comments - What kind of art do you need to photograph?

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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Awesome hub and one specially suited for artists like me who like to photograph their own art. Great resource!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thanks Shaky. You might want to try laying the art on the floor and photographing from above. I've done that a time or two.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Excellent and useful hub. I've have several drawings done on paper that is too large for the scanner. I've tried to photograph it, but it always came out too low-quality to be published to my galleries. Definitely going to try these tips!

      Love your art!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thank you Tilsontititan - The camera strap tip was in my camera's big thick manual. I read technical manuals when I watch tv. Then I reread them and try out all the settings to figure out how they work and how they affect photographs. Then I shoot tons and tons of photos. Only a few photos make me smile.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I am with RealHousewife, you are so talented. I love to take pictures but don't have the finer skills like you do! I love your suggestion of using the camer strap for measuring while in Macro, I NEVERw would have thought of that! I'm so glad I read this hub!! Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      :-) You are my bestest fan RealHousewife! The biggest tip is to shoot lots and lots of photos. One of them will turn out right.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I admire your skill so much! Taking great photos really is an art. I like all the tips and you know I will try. I do the shaking thing:) lol I will try taking photos from several angles - I never even tought of that before!

      I didn't know the higher the DPI business either - I really LOVE photography and wish I could see better too.

      I am sharing! Up and everything!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      If you are photographing glass or other reflective surface, be sure to turn the flash off or shoot at an angle so that the light from the flash is not reflected back into the lens.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I need to re-take some shots of my stained glass pieces and reading your hub has been very helpful. Thanks.