In the digital age, knowing how best to photograph your artwork is essential when entering art competitions or approaching galleries.
Here artist Cheryl Culver shares her top tips for photographing artwork.
The golden rules
1. Keep it straight
It is very important to display your artwork on a completely vertical surface for photographing; pictures with converging sides are very difficult to correct, as cropping will lose a percentage of the image (see below).
It is also helpful to level the work; a small spirit level is useful for this, although corrections can be made in Photoshop.
2. Use a tripod
Your camera needs to be completely stable in order to take a clear quality photograph. Tripods come supplied with a fixing that allows the camera to be securely attached to the top.
Tripods are height adjustable, but so is your easel and I find it easier to raise and lower my easel than the tripod.
I have the legs of the tripod set fairly long to avoid too much bending and use the camera lens and my easel to position the image in the camera viewfinder.
The artwork is taped to a drawing board. If you don’t have an easel which is adjustable to the vertical, select an area of wall space that you will use for photography.
The practicality of tripod heights and adjustments to suit your environment will come with practice.
3. Camera settings
I have my camera set on automatic focus: when the shutter button is half depressed the red light illuminates to indicate that the image is in focus and a shot can be taken.
This is the moment when the digital camera really comes into its own. With your remote release cable or your infra-red remote, take your first photograph. Then, by using the ‘Play Back Button’, you can view your picture, instantly. But even better, by using the ‘Enlarge Button’ and scrolling up and down you can check the focusing of the picture – I always look at my signature and if that is in focus I can be fairly sure the rest will be.
If the image is not good, just delete it (little dustbin symbol) and take another one.
Equipment needed to take a quality photograph of your artwork
1. A tripod is essential. It needs to be sturdy, stable and have adjustable legs. There are many to choose from and a quality product can be purchased for £60 or less.
2. Remote release cable or an infra-red remote release. These enable a photograph to be taken without touching the camera and so eliminating any camera-shake.
Another solution is to use the self timer on the camera, which delays the camera activation long enough for you to step away from the tripod and avoid any movement or vibration.
3. A battery charger. Most cameras come supplied with a charger and a battery. Some people feel happier with a spare battery, but for studio use this is not essential.
4. A computer. All cameras come with a computer programme which has to be uploaded to your computer in order for you to be able to process the images.
5. Memory cards. These slot directly into the camera and store the images as you photograph them. They come with different storage capacities and prices.
They can be used in different ways: left in the camera and the images downloaded via a cable using a USB port or, with an adaptor, they can be inserted directly into your computer and the images transferred that way.
These small cards make physical storage very easy; if you have been used to transparencies and negatives, they are a dream come true.
6. A decent camera case - padded preferably. Your camera should always be stored in this case.
7. A computer programme that allows you to crop and size images.
Photoshop Elements will probably be sufficient but there are others. Many, such as Light Room can be downloaded for a 30-day trial period before committing to a purchase.
Obviously the more you pay the more you get but bear in mind that some programmes offer far more than you will ever use. Take advice, but talk to other artists and friends – an artist who is computer literate will have made a few mistakes along the way and you could benefit from their advice.
8. A monitor calibrator. This tool will read and calibrate your computer screen so that the colours you see are as accurate as possible. The two types I know of are the Spyder and the Huey.
With thanks to Shaun Vincent at Canterbury Camera Centre for his invaluable help.
Telephone 01227 763905