THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO PHOTOGRAPHING ART LIKE A PRO
We regularly work with artists and creative entrepreneurs to sell their original work online but one thing we often come across is great art with poor photography. When it comes to selling your art online, photos can make or break your business. After all, your photos may be the first introduction potential buyers have to your work, so you want to make sure that you give a great first impression. In a perfect world, you would just hire a professional photographer to shoot your work, but for those of us who are on a budget, these are some great tips on photographing art like a pro!
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THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO PHOTOGRAPHING ART LIKE A PRO
Ask any photographer what the most important element of a photo shoot is and for sure their answer will be lighting. Natural light is best for capturing the true colours of your artwork, so if you can, try to shoot your work next to a window or an open door in the daytime. The key phrase here is ‘next to’ instead of ‘in front of’ because direct light can add unsightly glares or shadows. Likewise, a flash can add glare and wash out the photo, and indoor lighting can add strange tints, so both should be turned off. If the day is bright enough you should not have to worry about a flash.
Another helpful tip is that you should shoot your art wearing a white or light grey top as light bounces off everything, so unfortunately your favourite fluoro pink top may not be the best look for this particular shoot!
When you’re setting up your shot, you want to make sure that your background is neutral so it doesn’t distract from the star of the shot—your art. A plain white wall is best for canvases and prints. If you don’t have a white wall, a piece of white foam board can also give you a plain background. While a pale coloured surface is best for 3D pieces like sculptures and jewellery. If you’re photographing fashion and using a model, the same background rule applies, plus you want to make sure that any other items of clothing the model is wearing are toned down so they don’t draw attention away from the piece you are showcasing.
It goes without saying that you’re going to get the best shots from a high-quality camera like a DSLR such as the Canon EOS Rebel T5i / Canon EOS 700D or a compact Digital Camera. Textileartist.org recommends a few of these cameras to photograph artwork:
Sony DSCHX50 Compact Digital Camera
But no matter what camera you are using, a tripod is also important to have because it will steady the camera, lessening the chances of blurring.
Now, if you don’t have a DSLR or a high-quality digital camera you can always use your iPhone, so find yourself some great natural light, a tripod and get shooting! The iPhone may not give you the ultra high-res RAW print quality photos but with practice, you will get some great shots for your website. Make sure to focus your phone camera correctly by clicking on the screen and it also makes sense to increase the exposure.
Check out this Tripod for your smartphone.
Your camera settings will depend on your camera and the quality of light in the space you are shooting, but in general there are a few tips to follow. First, you want your ISO to be around 100 to 200 because anything higher will give you a grainy picture. Next, you want to set your white balance to auto. However, if you find that auto white balance is giving you weird tints, try setting the white balance to match the environment, for example, daylight or indoors. You will also want to set your camera to auto-focus. If possible, we also highly suggest shooting in RAW format, as this will give you the highest quality image and information to work with when you transfer the images over to your computer to edit.
PHOTOS + PROPS
If you are planning on selling your art online, we recommend a few different types of shots:
- Artwork only. A high-quality shot of just your artwork.
- Close-ups. Potential buyers love to see the details of your work, especially if they are considering making an online purchase and have not had the opportunity to see your work in person. Try to capture the colours and the texture of your work in order to give them a true representation.
- Styled Shots. If you are selling your work online it may make sense to capture your work in a frame or a styled environment. In some instances, you may also want to consider using props in your photograph to give your buyers an idea of the scale of your work. Try to choose neutral objects that won’t distract from your art.
If you would like to sell your work on other platforms outside your own website they often require styled photography to be used as your main product image. So if you have a gorgeous studio setting and a frame handy to shoot all the better, if not, you have a few different options to help you get the perfect shot:
Purchase a stock photo of a framed print or styled environment. You can do this on iStock and Shutterstock. If you need a little help with the graphic design element of this, you can head over to Upwork and ask a freelancer to help you out.
Once your artwork is in place, set the camera up parallel to your art and shoot the piece straight on. Ideally, the piece should take up at least 70-80% of the shot. If you’re using a tripod, try using the self-timer mode so that you don’t accidentally move the camera while shooting and blur the shot. For items like jewellery, sculptures and handmade creations, you want to show off as much of the product as possible and focus in on any unique design elements. You can also include more than one item in the shot to show different facets. Be sure to take multiple shots of each item and shoot all variations of your products including different colours and sizes.
Here is a great video by Saatchi Online on photographing art!
EDITING YOUR ART PHOTOGRAPHY
There are tons of editing programs you can use to touch up your photos, many of which are completely free. Two of our favourites include PicMonkey and Pixlr. When editing, the main things you want to look at are cropping, resizing and exposure. However, remember that you want the photo to be as close to the original artwork as possible, so resist the urge to go to overboard on the editing.
In terms of file size, if you are working from the raw images, make sure you save the original file for future use, but for the website photography, you will want to save your photos for web quality. Remember big heavy images slow your website down and are bad for SEO.
Square Space websites recommend you format your photo to a width of between 1500px – 2500px and a file size below 500kb, for us personally we try to get our file sizes lower than 300kb. We usually use a tool called Imagify to compress our images to help manage our site speed.
We hope you have found these tip for photographing art helpful! Please share your photos with us on Instagram @creative_founders using the hashtag #creativityinspired!
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