For small card size, a good phone camera shot that’s square on to the painting is fine.
For poster size you would need a good camera and have it on a tripod.
For anything bigger, or for great quality limited edition reproductions I would recommend outsourcing to a professional fine art house that specialises in the photography and printing. This is the most expensive option. I use this option for my fine art reproductions.
Even if you are going down this track it is a great idea to have a photo record of every painting you create, especially when you start selling it’s great to keep a visual record of what you’ve done over the years.
If you’re investing in art, it’s a great idea to have a good photo record of the pieces in your art collection for insurance purposes.
For my own records, this is how I do it:
I use a Nikon D700 digital SLR camera with a good lens that suits the short distance to the painting, and I always use a tripod. If you are a bit shaky then a remote shutter release is a great investment. Every tiny bit of movement as the shutter goes off will blur the image.
The higher the resolution camera the better.
I always take the photo in the shade on a mildly sunny day (not middle of the day) and not with cloud cover, which makes the light very blue. Avoid windy days as they will casue you no end of problems!
Try and find a place to prop up with a grey mid tone background and no bright reflecting colours. You need to take the photo with no shadows falling across it. Ambient backlight is good, never full sunlight or strong sidelighting.
I prop mine up on a grey board under the portico at the front of the gallery, with the grey render wall behind, and use a tripod. Early to mid morning is the best clean neutral colour daylight for me there.
I’m in the shadow there and no shadow gets cast onto the painting.
Then the trick is to get the painting propped up so it is square on to the camera, so all the edges are parallel.
Also make sure you have good clear focus – after taking the shot, zoom right in to make sure you see all the texture of the paper or canvas crystal clear. You should be able to see the weave in the canvas without any blurring.
After taking the photos I upload them to my Adobe Lightroom on my desktop computer and back them up to an external storage drive as well so that I always have at least two copies of every photo before deleting off the camera card.
Then I process the photos in Lightroom which means usually:
- Remove camera lens distortion
- Transform to square
- Crop & rotate
- and anything else that is needed
Many of the lighting adjustments are very subtle.
Once the image is clear and I am happy that it matches the original artwork as closely as possible, I export the image and add a copyright watermark.
When adjusting photos it is a good idea to do the work on a monitor that has been colour calibrated. You can buy little devices to help you do this.
Have you got any tips for photographing artworks that I haven’t mentioned here? Let me know!