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Photograph Your Art Like a Pro

23 Nov 2011

All the hard work and unique vision that we pour into our painting and drawing can result in artwork that we are proud of. The next step is to make an accurate photographic record of our art to share with friends, collectors, galleries and perhaps to enter into juried exhibitions.

The essential component to that sharing process these days is the making of a professional-quality digital recording of our art. We have two choices—pay a hefty fee to have a pro shoot our work, or invest a small amount of money to purchase our own professional equipment and learn how to make these photographic exposures ourselves. Ann and I have done it both ways and believe that, in the long run, it is far more economical, efficient, and fun to handle the photography ourselves.

This introduction will give you the basics, but to learn what you need to know to get perfect results every time, read the complete tutorial at The Artist's Road.

Regardless of which brands of lights, stands and filters you use, it is essential that you purchase a camera with a good-quality glass lens. Every image must first pass through a lens of some kind, so it is far better to get a camera with good optics but perhaps lower megapixels than the reverse! Buying a good used professional camera is a smart way to do this. 

This view shows the Impact Universal Film Holder frame attached to my light stand, along with a Tota-Light and heat shield. This view shows the Impact Universal Film
Holder frame attached to my light stand,
along with a Tota-Light and heat shield.

This shows the Lexan/polarizing film sandwich I made to fit in the film holder frames. The LINEAR polarizing film can be purchased in various sizes and cut to fit, if necessary. This shows the Lexan/polarizing film sandwich I
made to fit in the film holder frames. The LINEAR
polarizing film can be purchased in various sizes
and cut to fit, if necessary.

Note the Tiffen linear polarizing filter on the lens. When the filter is rotated to 90-degrees from the orientation of the films in front of the lights (cross-polarization), the hot-spots and glare on your art will magically disappear, and the colors will increase in saturation, depth, and fidelity. This is why the circular polarizer often sold for digital cameras won't work here. Note the Tiffen linear polarizing filter on the lens.
When the filter is rotated to 90-degrees from the
orientation of the films in front of the lights
(cross-polarization), the hot-spots and glare on
your art will magically disappear, and the colors
will increase in saturation, depth, and fidelity.
This is why the circular polarizer often sold for
digital cameras won't work here.

Another Night by John Hulsey, oil painting. Another Night by John Hulsey, oil painting.

You can really see the difference that polarizing made in these two images of my oil painting, Another Night. On the left, no polarizing, and a useless image. On the right you can see how the spectral highlights (hot spots) vanished, leaving well-balanced, rich tones without the heavy influence of the red-yellow tungsten light spectrum.

All that was needed was to crop the image and tweak it a little here and there in Photoshop. We hope it's clear from this demo that a small investment in the proper filters and lights pays big dividends in the results. With most juried shows relying on the quality of our photographs to decide who will make the first cut, it is imperative that artists get professional with their photography. Without top-notch high-fidelity images to show, there is no way to get a fair assessment of our work. And that is entry-fee money down the drain. So learn all about taking professional-quality photos of your art. It is easy and fun, and all the info is at The Artist's Road

--John & Ann


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Comments

peterworsley wrote
on 25 Nov 2011 5:36 PM

Very good advice, but you may wish to look at my recent article on scanning your paintings to obtain a high resolution digital image:

www.peterworsley.com/.../On_Scanning_My_Paintings.html

Peter Worsley.

ivDanu wrote
on 11 Dec 2011 8:43 AM

The only problem is that if you are a poor artist (most of us are, I suppose?) you cannot afford very expensive or even expensive equipment like this... you have to do with what you have...

on 21 Sep 2013 12:51 PM

In response to ivDanu:

We understand being poor artists! However, the only way to show our work to anyone is to have the highest quality images possible, and this takes a small investment in equipment that will last decades. Professionals invest in themselves. Our lights are over 25 years old - a great little investment any way you figure. We scrimped and saved over time to keep up with camera technology, because without it, we can't show or sell much of anything. Great deals are available in used equipment on-line.