Did you know that different types of light bulbs can create different color casts on your artwork?
Usually the most flattering light is daylight. Special daylight bulbs for photography are available. They can be a great addition to your indoor photography studio. It make take several lamps to get the results you want.
When I photograph my own artwork I find that shooting outside in natural light is often the best, easiest, and most economical solution. Shoot your images outside, out of direct sunlight- say on an overcast day or on the north side of a building when it’s sunnier (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). This should result in an evenly lit image.
Either way you choose to photograph your work, watch out for harsh glares and deep shadows. They can be distracting.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when photographing their artwork is that they don’t get close enough. Their artwork becomes lost in a sea of seamless backdrop paper or other background distractions.
For 2d work that is square or rectangular, fill the viwefinder of your camera completely if you can. For 3d or irregularly shaped pieces, get as close to the subject as possible. If you can’t get in too close without losing your focus, you may need to use your camera’s “macro” setting or even a special close up lens.
The key is to fill the frame with your artwork. If you can’t do this when taking the photo, it is easy enough to crop out excess background using photo editing software. Professional programs such as Photoshop are great if you are going to do a lot of editing, but many digital cameras come with free basic software. Additionally, there are several online services such as Picasa and Photoshop that offer basic editing tools like cropping for free.
You would not believe how many blurry images of artwork we see. The simplest solution to this problem is to use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, you can also make do simply by setting the camera on a sturdy surface such as a table. A remote shutter release or your camera’s self timer are also helpful because they prevent your hand from jostling the camera at the time of exposure.
For two dimensional work, make sure you shoot your work square on- so the whole piece is equally in focus. For three dimensional work, it may not be possible to get every part completely in focus due to your camera’s “depth of field”. Make sure the most important and prominent parts are crisp and that any parts not in focus are not distracting.
Look through your viewfinder and make sure the focus is as clear as possible. Experiment with the settings on your camera to determine which works the best for your artwork. Take lots of photos and really look at them with a critical eye. Make sure your images are as crisp as possible so viewers can really see your wonderful artwork.
In a word, yes, good professional photography is worth paying for. A professional has both the skill and the equipment to photograph your work in its best light. This can be especially important when it comes to applying to large national shows or when using the photos for print advertisements.
When looking for a photographer, make sure whomever you hire is skilled at photographing your particular type of work. Photographing 2D work is different than 3D. Shiny objects like glass and ceramics can create unflattering glares and reflections. Small items such as jewelry and miniatures may require special equipment for “macro” photography. Fiber and wearables may require the use of a model. Ask fellow artists for references. And ask to see samples of the photographers work.
Good professional photography can be expensive, but it can go a long way toward portraying yourself in a professional manner. Think of it an investment in your art business.