How to make the best photograph of your artwork

Many of the artists who start their online career need to get their artwork online. Luckily this is not as complicated as it may sound. This post hopefully has all the information that you need. Have a specific issue?

Have a specific issue? I made a frequent problem section at the end.

For all those struggling with getting the perfect picture of their artwork. The comple guide to photographing your artwork!

1. camera

What kind of camera do you need?

Any digital camera will do probably. Most digital cameras these days can give very high-quality results when you use them the right way. The only thing you really need is over 5 megapixels and 300 PPI (Pixels Per Inch) if you just want to upload your work. (For prints 10 megapixels and up is better)

I have been using the Nikon Coolpix L340 but with a the others I have used it has been fine as well!

Know your camera

The secret is knowing your camera well. If you know the settings and the effect it will have on the image it gets easier to find the perfect setting for photographing your artwork.

Settings you will need to know about;

  • ISO; low iso is better. The higher the ISO the more risk you have of a grainy picture!

  • A good autofocus will really help you with getting sharp images

  • The white balance will really help you get the right colours in the shot before editing.

Also what will really help is cleaning your lens before shooting. Smudged lenses don’t give pretty results… I speak from experience. (Also you camera autofocus will find it much easier to focus if you don’t have stuff on the lens.)


2. light

The experts disagree on this one. Some say cloudy weather but light. Some say sunny days but in the shade. The obvious thing is that you need enough light and it shouldn’t be coloured. On any day this means between 10 am and 2 pm you will probably have the best sun.

If you want a little bit more control you can use artificial lights. You can use a photography set up for this and photography lights. Again, make sure you don’t use coloured light bulbs since it will change the colours of your work.

(This work best when you use two lamps and place them on both sides at a 45-degree angle to the painting. Finding the optimal spot can cost a little bit of time.)

Which ever light source you use to try to get even lighting on your entire painting. Un-even lightning (so more shade on one side of the painting or something) makes for colour changes.

Never ever use flash. It will make the lightning uneven and can even result in flash spots which will make parts of the painting disappear.

If you have a shiny painting you can try using linear polarising filters to avoid shiny spots.


3. Set up

Always use a tripod

The tripod makes sure you get the sharpest possible image because it makes the camera less likely to shake when you take it. An added feature can be a remote or cable release to take the image.

Tip; If you don’t have a tripod you can use a stack of books or boxes.

If you have problems with moving a camera try using the burst function to take multiple shots. Hopefully, some in the middle will have moved less.

Avoid distortions

By angling the camera correctly we avoid distortions in the image.

This means that the lens and you work will have to have a 90-degree angle. The camera should be at the same height as the middle of the painting as well. This way we don’t get distorted images and most of the work in the frame. Make sure you are not using a wide angle lens.

(If you are working on a zoom-lens camera you can try to avoid the wide angle lens by placing your camera further away but zooming in the lens.)

Set up painting

Make sure your painting has a neutral background. Neutral backgrounds make sure your camera makes the colours more realistic. Plus bright colours can show up as a glow on your painting. Ideally, you will frame your photo to show no background at all to get the highest quality picture.

Also, remove frames and glass if you hadn’t already. It makes it much easier to make even lightning without it. Plus the glare of glass can make entire parts of your painting disappear!


4. Post-production editing

After you have taken some shots (preferably with some different camera settings) you can upload your picture to the computer.

But don’t clean up your set up yet. You never know how the images are until you see them on your computer. Trust me, you are gonna be a lot less motivated when you have shot loads of works, cleaned up the entire set up, upload the work, only to find out all of them are slightly out of focus.

I personality think for photo editing software you can go as really fancy as you like. Personally, I like Krita and GIMP to edit your pictures. (They are free which is always great. They give a very professional result and there are many tutorials for it.)

Read more on the difference between Krita and GIMP.

  • light; you will probably have to up the brightness. Try finding the balance between good light and good colours
  • colours; Colours should be as close to the original as possible. You can try using the colour balance tool if yours are slightly off. Don’t over do it though!
  • crop and rotate; make sure your image is standing straight and that there is no background showing (unless intended)

Keep the original picture close for reference so you don’t over edit. It is super easy to over edit and then the picture will look nothing like the original. Especially when you are selling the original this can be a big problem!

Frequent Problem 

“I can’t get sharp images”

First, check your camera settings and see if you are shooting in the highest available setting. Sometimes it isn’t set to the highest possibility.(Trust me, I did this once and it took me weeks to find out…) 

After this, make sure you set your camera on a tripod or a flat surface.

Make sure the room is properly lighted and make sure the camera is set on a low ISO.

If none of this seems to fix the problem you can try a shot with a different camera (same settings) and see if it turns out the same. If it is still unsharp, you probably need more light. Otherwise, it might be a dirty lens, problem focusing or another setting that is off. 

“My picture looks warped.”

If the looks wide to the top of bottom you need to set your picture upright so the camera and picture have the same angle. (The lens surface should be parallel to the picture.) Also, try having the camera on the same height as the middle of the painting.

If the picture is more wide on one side (left or right) your camera isn’t standing straight in front of the picture.

If the picture is curling in the corners or the corners are further back, you are shooting with a wide angle lens. For most digital cameras you can fix this by setting your camera further back and zooming in from there.

“My images get worse after editing”

Try editing your images the least amount possible. It is also better to add small changes at a time and go from there. 

Never add effect filters to artwork unless you are using it for social media. Most of the time it doesn’t do the original artwork justice!

Always keep the original file. This ensures you can start over with editing when it is starting to look weird.

I hope this has covered everything you might have wanted to know!

If you still have a problem you can always leave me a message in the comments and maybe I can help.

If you have the funds it is of course even easier to let someone else shoot the images for you. When you consider this make sure it is a place that knows how to shoot artwork. (Your painting probably doesn’t need a glamour hair and makeup shoot.) 

Don’t forget to share and leave a comment if this was helpfull!

Read more on starting your own art blog

3 Responses to “How to make the best photograph of your artwork

  • Thanks for these awesome tips Sofie! Low ISO on the settings, natural light and as little as possible editing brings out great results. Also I recommend artists to take time while picking their camera.

    • artsbysofie
      6 years ago

      Those are some great tips! Picking a camera can be such an important part. I would love to do a more in-depth guide on that in the future! ~Sofie

  • Amazing tips to photograph artwork. Your article is really helpful for me.

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