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Photographing Your Art. A how-to guide. A bit about digital cameras…. Pixels : the light-sensing dots on a camera’s electronic sensor that compose a digital photo. Resolution : the number of pixels in a photo, which affects a picture’s overall clarity.

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Photographing your art

Photographing Your Art

A how-to guide

A bit about digital cameras
A bit about digital cameras…

  • Pixels: the light-sensing dots on a camera’s electronic sensor that compose a digital photo.

  • Resolution: the number of pixels in a photo, which affects a picture’s overall clarity.

  • Megapixel: an expression of how many pixels are on a camera’s sensor, in millions.

  • While having more megapixels often means that the photo will have a higher resolution, a camera of 6 to 8 megapixels is plenty of camera to photograph your work.

  • Photographing your artwork
    Photographing Your Artwork

    • See the light

      • OUTSIDE—using indirect lighting is best, and overcast days are good.

      • INSIDE—avoid mixed lighting!

  • Use a tripod!

    • Familiarize yourself with all of your tripod’s adjustments.

    • Make sure your tripod legs have a firm footing before you shoot.

    • Avoid full extension of the tripod legs and/or center post.

  • Frame your 2d work carefully
    Frame your 2D work carefully!

    Shoot your piece straight on and not from an angle to avoid perspective distortion.

    First, square up your piece in the camera’s viewfinder. Then tweak the results on the back viewing screen.


    Utilize your camera s special features
    Utilize your camera’s special features

    Use the camera’s program (P) mode

    Use a low ISO number (100 ISO or lower)

    Use the highest resolution possible

    Set the camera’s white balance

    Set the optimal zoom lens to a moderate telephoto setting

    • Set the flash mode to “off”—you do NOT want to use flash.

    • Use the camera’s self-timer to take the picture

    • If your pictures are consistently too light or too dark:

      • Investigate your camera’s metering modes

      • Explore your camera’s compensation settings

      • Research grey card use

    Tips and time savers
    Tips and Time-Savers

    • Place a plain piece of white foam core or mat board in the exact position your piece is going to be in to check that the light is even.

      • Squint your eyes and check the foam core or mat board for shadows.

  • If necessary, use reflectors (foam core, etc.) to fill in, and even out, the light.

  • Whenever possible, remove the glass from 2D pieces.

  • Use a small hand-held mirror to assure precise camera alignment.

    • Place the mirror where the center of the piece is going to be.

    • If you can see the center of the camera lens in the center of the mirror when you look through the camera’s viewfinder, then you have precise alignment!

  • Tips and time savers1
    Tips and Time-Savers

    If you are photographing several pieces, first arrange them by size.

    If the piece that you are photographing is large, it is probably best to photograph it outside.

    Take more than one shot of each piece and vary your camera’s settings, especially when you are first attempting this. Take notes on what works and what does not for the future.

    For precise color reproduction, place a Kodak “Color Control Patch” along the edge of your piece. Be sure to include it in the picture you take for reference.


    • Match your slide film to your light source

      • Example: use the “Daylight” film setting for natural light, “Tungsten” film for photo flood lamps. A good camera store can help you get this right.

  • Bracket your exposures to help assure the best exposure.

    • Read your camera’s Owner’s Manual to learn how to perform this critical procedure using your specific camera.

  • If you have trouble focusing the lens on a manual film camera, add light (side light is usually the most helpful to assist you).

    • Be sure to remove the extra light before actually photographing your artwork.

  • A few tried and true sites
    A Few Tried-and-True Sites

    • For a “how to” guide on photographing your own work:








    A few tried and true sites1
    A Few Tried-and-True Sites

    • Digital how-to’s:

      • The best site for understanding digital images:


      • Glossary of scanning and digital terms:


      • Image size/resolution:


      • Basic Photoshop use:


      • General photo tips:


    Materials supplies and services
    Materials, Supplies, and Services

    • Professional photo lab (Raleigh):

      • J.W. Photo Lab

        620 North West Street (919) 832-8525

  • Art Supplies (Raleigh):

    • Askew-Taylor

      110 Glenwood Ave. (919) 834-4497

  • Photo Supplies (Raleigh):

    • Peace Camera

      421 West Peace Street (919) 836-2222

    • Southeastern Camera

      2123 Atlantic Ave. (919) 890-4484

  • Materials supplies and services1
    Materials, Supplies, and Services

    • Photographic supplies (best online sources):





  • In the market for a camera?

    • “Digital Camera HQ offers unbiased, informative reviews from camera experts and everyday users looking to share their own experiences. We are not a store, but we will help you find a great camera at the best price.”


  • Need a tripod?

    • “SLIK” and “BOGEN” are two brands of inexpensive, high-quality tripods.

  • Materials supplies and services2
    Materials, Supplies, and Services

    • Need a flatbed scanner?

      • Epson®Perfection Series scanners are excellent! Model 4490 comes packaged with Photoshop Elements.


  • Image management software?

    • Adobe Photoshop Elements

      • Photoshop CS=$$$$$, Photoshop Elements=$


    • Pixlr

      • Limited in what it can do, and a bit slow, but it is FREE.


    • GIMP

      • This is the open source answer to Adobe Photoshop.


  • This presentation is from Visual Art Exchange’s “Business of Being an Artist” educational series. For more information, visit