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How to Photograph Artwork for Prints

Knowledgebase Article

How to Photograph Artwork for Prints

Our easy-to-follow articles will help you learn all the basics of ArtworkSale.

How to Photograph Artwork for Print Production

  1. Overview
  2. Using Natural Light
  3. Setting Up Your Shoot
  4. Taking the Photograph
    • Smartphone Cameras
    • DSLR Cameras
    • Final Steps
  5. Finetuning Your Photograph

1. Overview

If you are on a budget, you can still take professional looking photographs of your artwork without using expensive studio equipment. Ideally, have a professional photographer shoot your artwork. But not everyone can afford professional photography so we’re providing you with these step-by-step instructions on how to photograph artwork for print reproduction and you’ll get excellent results.

You’ve spent hours creating that perfect work of art. Now, you’re ready to digitize your artwork for print reproduction. How to go about it by yourself can be challenging, but it is well worth investing a little extra time to photograph and present your artwork properly.

If your artwork is flat and small enough, it can be placed on a scanner. But if your artwork is heavily textured, it may not scan properly. High-end scanners produce great results but are expensive and may not give you accurate colors. Done right, photography can produce the high-quality results you expect.

2. Using Natural Light

Bright soft natural lighting produces the best results. Avoid direct lighting that can cast shadows, reflections, and alter the colors of your original art. Natural light contains the full-color spectrum which is necessary for producing a high-quality photograph of your artwork.

Photographing outdoors produces excellent results when taken on a bright, overcast day. The clouds act as a natural light diffuser. Avoid a blaring sun which can reflect your artwork and skew its colors.

If you plan to photograph indoors, a location with large windows letting in natural light works great. Avoid using standard home lighting since those light bulbs do not contain the full color spectrum and will cast a yellow color.

Lighting Hack: If you prefer using an indoor lighting setup but are on a budget, here is an easy DIY lighting setup. Purchase inexpensive clamp lamps and LED light bulbs that are 5000K to 5500K color temperature (daylight) at your local hardware store. Position the lamps to the left and right sides of your artwork at a 45-degree angle. The lamps should be horizontally aligned at the center of your artwork and set back about five or six feet or more, depending on the size of the artwork. For best results point the left lamp to the right edge of your artwork and the right lamp to the left edge. Be sure to turn off any other lights in the room. The setup looks something like this:

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3. Setting Up Your Shoot

To take the sharpest photographs, there should not be any human interaction when taking the photograph because you increase the chances of movement. Prevent any camera movement during photo exposure by setting the camera on a tripod or if you don’t have one, use a stable level surface.

Hang or lean your artwork against a plain white wall or flat background. If your artwork is on paper, attach or tape it tightly to a flat surface.  Using a white background will help in post-production color balancing.

Correct positioning of the camera is crucial. The camera lens should be centered and parallel to the artwork. If your artwork is leaning against a wall, make sure the camera lens position matches the same angle.

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4. Taking the Photograph

4.1. Smartphone Cameras

Today’s smartphones have very sophisticated built-in camera features and, in some cases, produce results that rival DSLR cameras. This is because modern smartphone cameras automatically adjust contrast, saturation, skin softening, and background blur, and have built-in image stabilization and high dynamic range for high contrast and low light situations. So, there is no need to invest in a DSLR camera if you already have a smartphone with a large image sensor and zoom capabilities.

4.2. DSLR Cameras

If you have or want to buy a high quality DSLR camera, at minimum, use a 12-megapixel camera to avoid image distortion when the print is sized. The minimum file size needed for print reproduction is 6500px on the short side at 72dpi.

  • Set your camera’s ISO to 100 (or 200 depending on the camera model). ISO controls how long the sensor is exposed to light. A low ISO setting provides the best exposure for photographing your artwork.
  • Setting your lens aperture to F8 (or up to F11) works best for photographing your artwork.
  • Turn off your camera’s flash.

4.3. Final Steps

Position your camera horizontally or vertically to match the orientation of your artwork. Be sure to spotlessly clean the camera lens with a microfiber cloth.

  • Allow a small amount of extra space around the edges of your artwork when framing it in your camera. This will be cropped out later. The idea is to nearly fill the entire view finder with your artwork. This helps maximize the resolution of your image.
  • Lighting has a lot of tones that your eye does not perceive, and the camera doesn’t know how to adjust for that. The camera uses what’s called white balance to compensate for this. The idea is to match the white in the image to the white you are seeing. If the camera’s auto white balance has an orange or blue tint, try using a preset based on your lighting environment. If you are using natural light, choose the daylight preset. You may want to try different presets to see what works best.

Tip: For optimal results, shoot in RAW + (Large) JPG format if your camera has this setting. RAW captures the most color information and is important when it comes to matching the colors on your computer screen to the original artwork.

For indoor photography, turn off all other lights in the room. They project their own color that will conflict with your beautiful natural light or daylight lighting setup.

  • Set the self-timer so that your camera remains completely still.

Tip: For best quality results, set the camera to zoom in a little. Lenses are not designed to be at their sharpest when they are all the way out or in.

Now, it’s time to check your image. If your image appears too dark or too bright, correct it by using your camera’s exposure compensation feature. The goal is to have the color and exposure of your image closely match your original artwork.

  • Adjustments can be made later on your computer but adjusting too much runs the risk of ruining the image file.
  • Make sure your image is in focus. If it appears a little soft or blurry, the autofocus may not have worked properly or perhaps the camera moved while taking the photo.
  • Take several photographs of your artwork. You can try to refocus the lens each time.

Leave your equipment in place while you review your image on a computer. You may see a problem that requires reshooting the photographs.

5. Finetuning Your Photograph

There are many photo editing applications available for processing your images such as Google Photos, iCloud Photos, LightRoom, Canva, Photoshop, and others.

Download your images from your camera to your computer and choose the best one to open up in the editing program.

  • Use the cropping tools so you only see the artwork without any background. Check the edges around your image and be sure to crop out any extra background that might be showing.
  • Carefully check over your image by zooming in at 100%. Make sure the image doesn’t contain anything that is not a part of the original artwork. You can remove any problem areas by using the retouch tool.
  • Your image can look more true-to-life if you slightly increase its contrast. You can also adjust the brightness and vibrancy to match the original artwork as closely as possible. But don’t over edit your image since too much editing can spoil the final image.
  • Now, you are ready to save your completed image to your hard drive using the correct format. Export the image as .jpg for Windows or .jpeg for Mac. When exporting, be sure to set the image compression to maximum quality.

Your art is now ready for art reproduction! Now you are ready to send your photograph to ArtworkSale. Follow the instructions on how to send your image to us in our article:

How to send images to ArtworkSale

If you need assistance, we are here to help you. Contact our Support Team at support@artworksale.co.

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