Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Photograph – A Critical Component

My friend and photographer, Kelly Bell, author of The Sorry Gardner @ suggested I write a blog about photographing artwork since many artists consider this a challenge.

The “Catch 22” is knowing when and where to get a good photographer at reasonable rates, or choosing to do it yourself and learning how the hard way. I chose the latter, so I’ll share with you some things I’ve learned along the way. I'll start with a photo of my completed Easter painting.

"He Lives"

You may be a professional artist, an amazing painter, but if you don’t know how to photograph your paintings, no one will know it but you. To make prints or giclees from your artwork requires the utmost care in taking, uploading, and using a digital image of your painting. Here are some basic necessities:

1. Have a good high-resolution camera. If you don’t, you’re better off hiring a professional photographer. Without high-resolution images, the fine details of your painting get lost, and the ability to reproduce quality prints or giclees is next to nil.
     a.  Do your homework, do your shopping. There are many medium priced cameras that will do the job.
     b. Explain to the salesperson what you need in the way of a camera and why you need it. They will help you find one in your price range.
     c. If you take a low-resolution picture and try to increase the resolution and enlarge it to uploaded, your image will be blurred and your print unsalable.
     d. Avoid photographing your painting in its frame. Even when you’re trying to be careful, a part of the frame always shows up and makes your image unusable for making prints.

2. Buy a tripod. Don’t fudge! Everyone shakes a little when they point and shoot. Even a tiny tremor can blur the image, tilt the camera, or produce poor quality results.
     a. By steadying your camera on a tripod, and checking the image in your viewer, you can usually get a fairly good picture.
     b. I take several pictures once I’m certain my tripod is placed in the right spot.

3. Good lighting is a must! We can’t all go out and buy the kind of lighting professional photographers use, but we should make certain we have at least “adequate” lighting.
     a. I take my pictures early in the morning when light is streaming in through the windows.
     b. I use a table to make certain my painting is level. I use overhead lights and table lighting in addition to the daylight.
     c. I enhance my lighting with the picture software on my computer. I simply use an automatic adjust, nothing more. I don’t want to change the tone or hue of my original painting.

4. Yes, you need some kind of photo software on your computer. Most computers come with a basic program.
     a. You may want to re-size your image, enhance color, if necessary, or at least make certain it has enough lighting to look its best.
     b. You may need to “crop” your image, especially if you haven’t placed your tripod close enough to avoid background images.
     c. You may need to “straighten” your image. If that doesn’t work, go back and adjust your tripod and take another photo.
     d. I usually make my image the same size as my painting i.e. 16x20, etc. That way, when I make prints the image is clear and beautiful.

5. When uploading, follow the directions of your server host. I upload to my blog, my online gallery, and to several other sites. I store my images in one place on my computer, so I know where to get the photos that have been edited and prepared beforehand.

"Work in Progress" some weeks ago.

Why are these steps so important? To avoid some of the errors I’ve seen on online galleries:  too small an image, parts of frames showing distracting background objects, crooked pictures; a result of a “point-and-shoot” camera and no tripod; faded, lifeless color that has not been lighted or enhanced.

If you want to sell paintings, cards or prints, you need the proper tools to show-off your talents. I invite you to ask questions or offer your own self-discovered tips in your comments. Thanks!