Think about view angle when photographing your 3 dimensional work.
A square-on image taken from the front of a 3d piece is not always the most flattering or even the most interesting view. Changes in tone, mood, the play of light and shadow and many other factors can often be effected by a simple shift in viewpoint. One of the greatest things about 3 dimensional work is just that – it’s 3 dimensional – there are multiple views and angles to explore.
When I sculpt, I often place my work on my potter’s wheel (or a lazy susan) and turn it slowly. That way I can get a sense of what the piece looks like from various viewpoints.
Try something similar when you are photographing your work. Take pictures from a number of different angles. Turn your piece or walk around it and look for interesting lines and details.
Don’t forget to check higher and lower angles as well. It’s often amazing what a difference even a slight shift in perspective can make in the resulting photograph.
You’ll never know what you might come up with. And even if you don’t end up using all the photos for jury shots or advertising, you’ll have great documentation of the piece.
Have you ever considered taking pictures of your artwork on display in your or your customers’ homes? Displaying these images on your website can be a very useful sales technique.
This is particularly helpful in conveying such factors as scale. Standard jury type photos are great but sometimes they give absolutely no idea of the size of a piece. I remember arriving at a gallery with pieces for a show and the curator remarked that she had expected my work to be much smaller. I said “Well I sent you the dimensions.” She said “Oh I know it’s just that I didn’t expect clay sculptures to be that large.” It was fine, the exhibition went off without a hitch. The point is that even someone experienced in dealing with jury slides had difficulty envisioning the size of the pieces in the photos.
So why not include a few images of your work “in situ” on your website. Images of your paintings, sculpture, furniture, etc installed in a residence may help your potential customers better visualize the work in their own home.
Sometimes we receive photos from an artist that seem fuzzy. I’m not speaking of photos that are out of focus but rather of those with a grainy or “noisy” appearance. This is often caused by a combination of poor lighting and too high of an ISO setting.
High ISO numbers are meant for capturing images in low light situations. It result in larger grains on your digital “film”. The larger the grains, the less detail you will capture and the more ragged or grainy your images will appear.
Most cameras will let you set the ISO. I suggest setting it at around 100-200. If you are letting your camera set it automatically, make sure you have your artwork well lit so the camera will choose a lower ISO number. This may also lead to a longer exposure time, so make sure you use a tripod or set your camera on a stable surface so you don’t get camera shake which can also blur your pictures.
The background you choose to photograph your work on may depend on your specific type of work.
Neutral backgrounds such as gray, beige or black or the ever popular graduated photo paper often work best. These are widely available at photographic supply stores and are well worth the investment. Just note, they are delicate and need to be taken care of- wrinkles, scuffs and scratches can be unsightly in photographs.
Smooth fabric can also be used. But, if you use fabric, be wary of wrinkles and fold marks, they can be very distracting.
Some jewelers use translucent glass lit from beneath for that magazine ready look.
Some artists even choose to shoot their images in situ or in interesting venues such as their backyard. This can be done to great effect, but be careful that the background enhances rather than detracts from your work. And, some show juries can be rather conservative, so unless you know that they will not be put off by such images, it may be better to use a plainer backdrop for jury shots. The same goes for props- just make sure they play a supporting role rather than stealing the scene.
There are several approaches to composing a photograph of your artwork.
For jury slides, a simple compostion is probably best- center your work in the frame. Two dimensional work should be cropped to show only the work. Unusually shaped and three dimensional artwork should fill as much of the frame as possible.
For advertisements or other venues you may want to create a more interesting or dramatic compostion.
Either way, be wary of odd or unflattering angles. Really look at the framed image in your camera lens as if it is a piece of art itself.
This tip applies mainly to all you 2d artists out there.
When you photograph your artwork, make sure the sides are in parallel. Sometimes paintings and other 2d images will look warped or fish-eyed in a photograph.
If you work is framed and the frame is not integral to the piece, consider photographing it unframed. Frames can present several problems: they often contribute the out of parallel effect, works under glass often have glares or reflections, and frames take up valuable real estate in your image that could be utilized by your actual artwork.
If you need to, it is often better to sacrifice a small sliver of your painting rather than to have a distracting slice of background in the frame.
Photo-editing software can help too. Many digital cameras come with scaled down version of software such as Photoshop elements. Additionally, there are several online services such as Picasa and Photoshop that offer basic editing tools like cropping for free. More complex programs such as Adobe Photoshop give you options to stretch or warp your images back into square, but they must be used with discretion so as not to alter your artwork too much.