Photographing Your Art


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A short tutorial on photographing your artwork for sale, submission, or marketing materials

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  • Use a Black Background Seamless paper usually works the best for this but you can use many different things - from a black sheet to a piece of construction paper. As long as you have enough to completely obscure the background behind your artwork, you can make it work. Use Fuji Velvia The first thing you need to decide is what film would work best. Although this is often an issue fraught with personal preference, Fuji Velvia comes highly recommended. Since it was introduced by Fuji it has consistently gained popularity among photographers and editors alike. Viewers lean toward slides shot with Velvia because the colors pop out. Bright Overcast Light is Best If the weather cooperates, shoot outdoors on a bright overcast day. If that is not possible, direct light is second best. The only problem with direct light is that it can create glare and cause weird fluctuations in the amount of light reflection from your work. Open shade is the worst because it often casts a blue tone over your work. If nothing else is working, see if you can rent or borrow time in a studio and make the most of the professional lighting equipment. Remove the Frame If possible, take the Artwork out of the frame to keep all attention on your work of art. The last thing you want to do is give an editor or judge an excuse to eliminate your Artwork from the competition simply because he or she doesn't like the frame. As this is often a matter of personal preference, your own interior decorating needs, and fashion, leave framework out of the picture. Beware of Parallax and Skewed Lines With slides, what you shoot is what you submit. There is a digital process where you can scan in a slide, correct any problems, and then have a lab make another slide out of the new file. But who has time or dollars for that? Just strive to shoot straight into your Artwork. You may find it especially helpful to place your Artwork flat on the ground and shoot from above. If you have a tripod that lets you shoot directly from above, use it. Make many exposures to select from; do not worry about wasting film. Unlike in the movies you don’t – and shouldn’t - only get one take. If you keep these five simple points in mind, you will be much more likely to get great slides of your artwork - slides that will win you placement in a gallery, show, or magazine.
  • Overcoming the psychological resistance we have against cutting off a perfectly good edge in a photo is tough; getting it right is even harder.
  • Demo coloured lighting setups here – different lights on white sheets
  • To get a Curves function, you need the full version of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Unsharp Mask example
  • Photographing Your Art

    1. 1. Photographing Your Art A Presentation By Leah Murray Digital Visions Imaging
    2. 2. It’s All About Light
    3. 3. Why <ul><li>Getting Sales </li></ul><ul><li>Making limited run print editions fine art </li></ul><ul><li>greeting cards, catalogues for shows </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping accurate records of your career and body of work. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Who <ul><li>An artist trying to sell work </li></ul><ul><li>A collector trying to insure priceless possessions </li></ul><ul><li>A gallery owner or arts organization producing a catalogue or marketing materials </li></ul>
    5. 5. What <ul><li>This presentation describes how to record your images with a digital camera. </li></ul><ul><li>Although most of the principles and tips apply whether you are shooting film, slides or digital, there are some tips specifically geared towards shooting slides included just in case you ever need them. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Where <ul><li>Indoors – </li></ul><ul><li>Outdoors – </li></ul><ul><li>The right light - Bright Overcast Light is Best - If the weather cooperates, shoot outdoors on a bright overcast day. If that is not possible, direct light is second best. </li></ul>
    7. 8. Where <ul><li>The right light - The only problem with direct light is that it can create glare and cause weird fluctuations in the amount of light reflection from your work. </li></ul><ul><li>Open shade is the worst because it often casts a blue tone over your work. </li></ul><ul><li>If nothing else is working, see if you can borrow time in a rental (or friend's) studio and make the most of the professional lighting equipment. </li></ul>
    8. 10. When <ul><li>When you have completed your piece </li></ul><ul><li>When you are submitting work to a juried show </li></ul><ul><li>When you need to review/revise your insurance </li></ul><ul><li>When you need to make marketing materials </li></ul><ul><li>When you want to make a limited edition print run </li></ul>
    9. 11. How <ul><li>The first step is to get everything together. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Choosing a camera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gathering all the artwork you'd like to shoot </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cleaning any artwork framed in glass to remove smudges and dust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Having fresh batteries in the camera or at least on hand </li></ul></ul>
    10. 12. How <ul><li>For shooting digital, you will want to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure you have the memory - clear a card if you need space </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Install any software you need to get images & to manipulate them on your computer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Set up cables or card readers for connecting your camera to your computer </li></ul></ul>
    11. 13. How <ul><li>For shooting with film, slide or print – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Get a roll or two of film - Fuji Velvia or your favorite slide film. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you don't need slides but still can't go digital, use a Fuji Super HQ or Kodak Royal Gold if you can find them. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With film of any sort, it’s best to beg, borrow, or buy a Single Lens Reflex if you don’t already have one. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bear in mind that your film shots will later have to be digitized if you go with film . </li></ul></ul>
    12. 14. <ul><li>Once you've checked these items off your list, or at least are mentally prepared to tackle them when the time comes, you are ready to rock and roll. </li></ul>
    13. 15. How <ul><li>The first thing you need to decide is what media you would prefer to work with. </li></ul><ul><li>If you only have a 35mm point and shoot and a roll of slide film, you will most likely be going in that direction. </li></ul><ul><li>A digital point and shoot will work fine for this project too and a DSLR will do lovely work. </li></ul>
    14. 16. How <ul><li>You are more likely to be unpleasantly surprised with the lab results from a film point and shoot than from a film SLR since you see through the SLR's viewfinder a more accurate representation of what you are going to get in the final image. </li></ul><ul><li>You can more easily catch errors before you expose. </li></ul><ul><li>Do use whatever you have at hand: most any camera can be made to work. </li></ul><ul><li>Digital is easiest, though. </li></ul>
    15. 17. How <ul><li>Note that slide film needs to have the following five things taken into consideration: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>• Use a Black Background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Use Fuji Velvia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Use Bright Overcast Light </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Remove the Frame </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Beware of Parallax and Skewed Lines </li></ul></ul>
    16. 18. How
    17. 19. How <ul><li>For a point and shoot camera, digital or film, you have to be prepared to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>correct for parallax and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>deal with viewfinder misrepresentation, whether you crop to the edge of the Artwork or to the edge of the frame, </li></ul></ul>
    18. 20. How <ul><ul><li>Parallax is the effect from looking through a viewfinder that is distinct from the camera lens itself. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Point & shoots have you look through a small opening that is an inch or two away from the actual lens. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>As you get closer to your subject, what the lens sees and captures will shift away from what you see in the viewfinder. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The solution that camera manufacturers have is to shift it back: guess how far off you are and reframe your photo. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This usually means forcing yourself to eliminate the edge of the shot that is furthest from your viewfinder. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    19. 21. How
    20. 22. How <ul><li>Viewfinder Misrepresentation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The other potential problem is viewfinders not showing everything that will appear in the final image - Most viewfinders only show about 90 percent of the actual image. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you try to get close to eliminate distracting background, you may be surprised by final images that have a wide border of distracting junk around the artwork. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The best solution in this case is knowing your camera. You may often end up zooming in about a centimeter of a turn to eliminate the “invisible” stuff along the edges. </li></ul></ul>
    21. 23. How <ul><li>Get things straight </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether you lay it flat or lean it up against the wall, the challenge will be to shoot the artwork straight on, without skewing the frame or edges by leaning one way or the other. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imagine the plane your film is occupying in space and try to keep it perfectly parallel to your artwork. Your goal is to place the camera as if you were laying the film flat against the art. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use a tripod if you have a hard time keeping the film plane parallel or keeping the camera steady. </li></ul></ul>
    22. 24. How
    23. 25. How <ul><li>Gather accessories you might need. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a tripod; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a flash unit (if you insist - further on, we discuss why no flash is better); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a polarizing filter for your lens(great for cutting back glare on artwork behind glass) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Batteries if you’re shooting with an energy-sucking digital camera; power problems get worse if you ‘re using an on-camera LCD monitor as a viewfinder. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An AC adapter and an extension cord might the handiest tool in your arsenal in that case. </li></ul></ul>
    24. 26. How <ul><li>Warning: before using glass cleaner to clean the stuff protecting your art, make sure that really IS glass. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If it is Plexiglas - much lighter and more flexible than glass – DON’T use glass cleaner as this scratches up the surface. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A soft cloth and a little warm water - very gently applied - should be as far as you go with plexi. </li></ul></ul>
    25. 27. How <ul><li>By far the best thing you can do to make great photos of your artwork is to carefully choose the light. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you choose your light?!? Simply override the automatic, flash-everything-to-a-nice-pasty-white function on your camera. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shoot outside on an overcast day or using indirect light, i.e. shade. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use a studio and studio lights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use a softbox </li></ul></ul>
    26. 28. How
    27. 29. How <ul><li>Choose a neutral white light </li></ul><ul><li>One of the ways light is measured is using the Kelvin Colour Temperature Scale. </li></ul>
    28. 30. How
    29. 31. How
    30. 32. How <ul><li>Nothing your presenter says is gospel! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes you may need to add extra light. The art media, your camera, the weather may force use of a flash for better accuracy. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With a little help from Photoshop, any image can be made more accurate. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If using film, opt for the richer, more colorful image than a flashed image can provide. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experiment until you get things just the way you like them. (Shameless plug coming up) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You might even want to take a workshop with a local photographer to find out how to do this easily and consistently. </li></ul></ul>
    31. 33. How
    32. 34. How <ul><li>In order to get the best image, it may be easiest to lean art against an exterior wall. If you live in a damp, rainy or otherwise art-unfriendly environment be careful: keep the art safely under an overhang or otherwise protected from the elements. </li></ul>
    33. 35. How <ul><li>Why not leave them ON the wall? </li></ul><ul><li>The light indoors is usually much more heavily coloured than indirect light outdoors - your arts true colours will not be seen in this light. </li></ul><ul><li>In a clean, well-lit place, though, like a gallery, studio with northern white light, outdoors under a white canopy or under lighting, you can leave artwork on the wall and shoot it where it hangs. </li></ul>
    34. 36. How
    35. 37. How <ul><li>If your pieces are small (less than 10&quot; x 14&quot;), then you may be able to lay them flat on the ground and shoot from above. </li></ul><ul><li>Larger work will be more easily shot if you lean it up against the wall. </li></ul><ul><li>Either way, you may also find it beneficial to place a large piece of black or white cardboard or foam core behind your artwork to eliminate distracting background and allow the viewer to focus on the art. </li></ul><ul><li>You will find this helpful especially if you are shooting slides, since cropping options will be limited. </li></ul>
    36. 38. How <ul><li>Framed or Unframed </li></ul><ul><li>If your Artwork is nicely framed, include the frame in your image. </li></ul><ul><li>You do not want to cut off the edges of a good frame any more than you would want to crop the edges of your Artwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Unframed artwork can be shot with just a bit of space around the edges. </li></ul>
    37. 39. How
    38. 40. How <ul><li>Framed Artworks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Framing artwork, as you may have learned already, places more emphasis on your work and gives it a sense of greatness, completeness, realness and importance. It is a good idea for you to keep this effect intact. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If, on the other hand, your artwork is framed cheaply, you will want to crop that out just as you would remove other distracting elements from your composition. </li></ul></ul>
    39. 41. How <ul><li>Through a Glass, Darkly </li></ul><ul><ul><li>With trial and error as your method of shooting, glass can be a big pain. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Turn off your flash (you still have that thing on?!?). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Next, possibly enlist the help of a filter. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Third, watch out for reflections. </li></ul></ul>
    40. 42. How
    41. 43. How <ul><li>Reflections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Watch out for reflections. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It sounds simple but it is easy to completely overlook these at the time you take the picture. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To combat this, take a moment and look everything over carefully before shooting. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make a note on your hand if you have to! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tape a paper to your sleeve that says, &quot;Wait! Look! What am I going to see later that I am overlooking now?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And then adjust yourself, your camera, or your artwork until you get it right. </li></ul></ul>
    42. 44. How <ul><li>Glass, Plexiglas, Non-glare Glass or No Glass - The choices are endless. </li></ul><ul><li>When it comes to shooting our work, though, nothing beats artwork without any protection on it. </li></ul><ul><li>Glass of any kind can get in the way of a good photograph. </li></ul><ul><li>If it is super easy, you can take the image out of a glass frame. </li></ul><ul><li>If not, don't worry about it: you can shoot around this. </li></ul>
    43. 45. How <ul><li>Turn off the flash. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>With the flash on, you will need to place yourself at a 45 degree angle to your work, and this will cause a serious violation of rule #3 - Keep Things Straight. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You may begin to think we are biased against flash. We aren't. In fact, we love it. But only in certain circumstances. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As an artist, you probably have a keen eye. Using a flash against glass will not give you an accurate reproduction of your work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t want it to be obscured by a big ugly glob of glare. </li></ul></ul>
    44. 46. How <ul><li>POL or CPOL Filters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Another trick in combatting glare is to use a polarizing filter. This helpful accessory comes in two flavors - one for autofocus and one for manual focus. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both are best used with an SLR but if your point and shoot has threads for a filter (or if you don't mind holding a filter in front of your lens), you can make it work for you, too. </li></ul></ul>
    45. 47. How <ul><li>Digital Darkroom Work </li></ul><ul><li>Even if you capture a prize winning image of your artwork, you will often be able to enhance it on the computer. </li></ul><ul><li>This involves correcting things that went wrong at time of exposure as well as things inherent to the digital process. </li></ul><ul><li>It's likely you have a computer. If you just need software, check out starter image editing programs like Photoshop Elements. </li></ul>
    46. 48. How
    47. 49. How <ul><li>Digital Darkroom Software </li></ul><ul><li>It has Levels tools, which can be used to correct color. </li></ul><ul><li>Digitizing an image (scanning it or shooting it with a digital camera) often softens the picture focus. </li></ul><ul><li>To bring it back to sharpness, we mask the unsharp effect. This is a funny way of saying sharpening. </li></ul><ul><li>Don't overdo it with an Unsharp Mask - a light touch is all that is needed. Pushing the filter to its maximum causes the image to get sharp like a rusty saw blade. </li></ul><ul><li>. </li></ul>
    48. 50. How
    49. 51. How <ul><li>It is essential to your mental health to be fully aware of how differently various monitors display images. </li></ul><ul><li>Be prepared to see your beautiful picture go from a perfectly color-corrected work of art to a disgusting, embarrassing misrepresentation when you display it on someone else's smudgy old computer monitor. </li></ul><ul><li>Someday, the Webster of the monitor world will successfully standardize the way we display photos on screens - many people are working on that as we speak. </li></ul>
    50. 52. How <ul><li>For now, we generalize: Macs display light and PCs display dark. </li></ul><ul><li>Just keep playing with your images until you get something you are happy with. </li></ul><ul><li>Email it, print it, set it as your screensaver, or best of all, put it on display somewhere. </li></ul><ul><li>Now put that paintbrush down for a few minutes and grab your camera. </li></ul>
    51. 53. Thank you! Questions?