How to Take Great

Photos of Your Art

I look at countless photographs of art online and have a hard time believing how bad many of them are. I sometimes wonder whether artists think taking quality photographs of their art is even necessary. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is. How you present your art is practically as important as creating the art itself. So in the interest of making your art photographs look as good as possible, here are some helpful tips to achieve that goal:

* Photograph your art in surroundings that make it look great. Avoid locations, settings, and backgrounds that detract from the work. For example, don't show it lying on floors, sitting on furniture, leaning against walls, or in other haphazard or unflattering circumstances. You want people to see that you care about your art and how it's presented. Where and how you show it counts. And how great you make it look counts even more.

* Photographs should always be taken in high enough resolution for viewers to see significant details. Fuzzy or pixilating low-res photographs are not a good look. Some artists purposely to "protect" their work, but if viewers can't get reasonable ideas of what it actually looks like, they usually move on.

* Pay close attention to lighting. Surfaces should be evenly lit with no areas appearing too dark or too light. If your art is textured, light it so that the texture shows. When photographing in interiors, watch out for areas of sunlight or shadows that might cover or be too near parts of the compositions. Never use your flash directly facing the art as it will create bright white spots, glare, reflection, or burn. Best procedure is to take test shots along the way in order to make sure your lighting is perfect.

* If necessary, use a tripod to steady your phone or camera while shooting. This eliminates problems of blur or motion effects.

* No matter how much you love posing with your art, keep your appearances to a minimum. The more you insert yourself into your images, the more people will wonder whether it's about you or your art. Too much you can be distracting.

* The greater the amount of detail in your art, the more you should consider using close-ups. Good close-ups help people appreciate your detailing skills as well as the complexity of your work. When using close-ups, you might insert common objects into the compositions like a pencil point or brush tip to help accentuate the detail.

* Never use watermarks on images of your art. Not only do they distract from the work, but they're also a great way to show how paranoid you are about people trying to copy or steal your images. At worst, some artists use multiple watermarks in horizontal or diagonal patterns that can practically obscure entire compositions. You always want your art to look as good as possible and covering it with writing is not how to do that.

* You don't have to put copyright notices on your images. Your art is automatically copyrighted. No need to remind us.

* As obvious as this sounds, make sure your images are in focus.

* Limit the amount of clutter around your art. To you, the art may be the focal point of a photograph, but people's eyes wander and you don't want them spending more time on the backgrounds than they will on your art.

* Keep the art away from windows or other bright light sources that might compete with and draw attention away from the art.

* Color-correct images whenever necessary. You want photographs of your art to look as close as possible to how it looks in real life.

* Photograph your art in actual interiors rather than editing it into fake ones. Displaying your work in real settings makes it easier for people to imagine how it might look in their homes or offices.

* Showing images of art cropped right to the edges of the composition allows viewers focus totally on the work itself with no distractions. However the downside of removing all context is that it's more difficult for viewers to imagine in real life settings. So make sure to balance cropped images with occasional photographs of the art (whether framed or unframed) hanging or on display around recognizable items like furnishings or decorative objects. This way, viewers can get better ideas of what size it is and how it might look in their homes or offices.

* Shoot your art straight on, not from the sides or from above or below. Shooting it at angles distorts its shape. The more extreme the angle, the worse the distortion.

* Always make sure your art looks as good in your images as it would in a gallery. Perfectly displayed art shows viewers you care; crooked or haphazardly hung or positioned art shows that you don't.

* When photographing outdoors, make sure your art is the center of attention and that it stands out against whatever's in the background. Beautiful backgrounds can sometimes compete with the art for attention and compromise the viewing experience.

* What's going on around your art in a photograph should never be more interesting to look at than the art itself. Consciously compose the entire image, surroundings included, and not just your art.

* Watch out for reflections when photographing art with glossy finishes or framed under glass. Eliminating image imperfections sometimes takes time, but the end product is always worth it.

* Some pets look great posed with art while others don't. No matter how much you love your pets, be honest with yourself about whether they add or detract from the viewing experience.

* Whether you're photographing for social media or for thumbnail images on your website, always the show the entire artworks. If you crop rectangular compositions to fit square formats, for example, viewers, might assume your art is square when in fact, it's not. Removing portions of works just to fit certain formats almost always has negative effects.

* Avoid showing too many pieces of your art in single images, especially if they're all very different. As the artist, you know exactly what you're looking at. But most viewers won't. An occasional art-filled studio shot is fine, but showing too many works grouped together too often can get really confusing.

* If you see a problem with a photograph of your art, take it over again (and again) until you get it right. If you're not satisfied with an image, chances are people who are looking at it won't be either.

* The time and attention that you dedicate to taking quality photographs of your art reflects on the overall care, concern, and respect that you have for your work. The more you care, the more others will too.


(photography by Kija Lucas)

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