Photographing Art Digitally Part 2

by

Armand Cabrera

Digital images are easier to manipulate than traditional film. Digital tools allow anyone with the money to buy the software and with a little study and practice be able to edit their own images.  I use Photoshop for all of my image correcting.

This is not a Photoshop tutorial; if you don’t know the basics of Photoshop I recommend buying the software and using the online help tutorials that come with it to learn its basic functions. These online help features are the equivalent of reading the manual.

I want to make the image look almost as good as the original. This idea is very important.  It is very easy to make a painting look better than it actually is with digital tools. As an artist selling my work I want to avoid this at all costs. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing the physical painting and realizing that the image was manipulated to look better than the artist was capable of painting it.
I am currently using Photoshop CS5 on a workstation PC. If you have an apple computer I feel sorry for you and this article is not for you.
When I open the image in Photoshop, I first crop it using the crop tool and square it using the free transform function. Once the free transform function is activated I position the control points while pressing the control key on my keyboard while I work. This activates the distort function which allows me to pull any point handle independently of the others.  I avoid using the auto correct functions on the image. The goal is to make it like the original, not some predetermined idea of what a good photo is.
Next I open the color balance tool and adjust the color.
Then I open the brightness /contrast tool and adjust the brightness and contrast.
The last thing I do is open the Hue /Saturation Tool and adjust the saturation.
All of this should get me close to the original painting. If not I will go in and using the selection tools adjust elements of the painting individually for color, saturation and value. When I am finished I save the image as a jpeg file on its highest setting at 300 DPI. I label it for print and then open up the image size tool and make a copy for my web postings. I set the DPI at 72 instead of 300 and set the longest measurement at 800 pixels.
 That size is just enough for someone to get a good idea of what the image is but not high enough for someone to make prints of. And that’s it. Professional images that are good enough for print publications and the web.

 

 

 

The free transform tool is found in the Edit dropdown menu. You must have an active selection (Already selected something)  to select it from the dropdown menu.
The Image size and crop Functions are found under the Image dropdown menu

 

The Color Balance Tool, the Brightness /Contrast Tool and the Hue/Saturation Tool are all found under the adjustments fly out panel, under the image dropdown menu.

Being an Artist in the Digital Age

By
Armand Cabrera

 

I had two computers fail last weekend. My workstation, the CPU fan failed which was reasonably easy to replace although with the storms it still took a week. My laptop was a complete failure of the drive and since its a ten year old xp machine it ewas time to let it go.

I rely on my computers to give me the date and time, keep my calendar of appointments and update me with current events and weather. Most of my correspondence is through email or text.  All of my advertising and marketing is digital now too. Social media and portfolio sites play a big part in my presence as an artist and of course there is still this blog. All of which I need to be able to access on something besides the two inch screen of my Smartphone.

Of the two computers the laptop was expendable so I’m glad the situation turned out how it did but the whole incident got me thinking about how much technology has changed how I work in the past ten years. While I’m no Luddite compared to people my same age, I’m sure the younger artists out there are rolling their eyes right now at me saying “please, you still work traditionally for the final image you are making.”

Even with my traditional work I have let computers into most of the process. Photo reference is shot with my digital camera and editing is all in the computer, as are compositional sketches and color keys. I no longer have to print out images to work from in the studio I have dedicated a large monitor for that. If I do print things they get printed from the computer.
This last week has left me picking up old ways of working, lots of pencil thumbnails and some small color sketches and painting from field studies. What I noticed immediately is how much the preliminaries in the traditional process matter and how much more focused I am working that way.
My traditional painting is the end result for me, but even so, digital tools really allow decision making to be put off indefinitely and I think that matters a great deal in painting. One of the reasons painting outdoors from life is so important is it forces decision making during the process whereas working in the controlled environment of the studio, especially with tech, does not.
Going forward I am going to be paying more attention to this to see if there is a way to use tech in a way that doesn’t short circuit decisions and leave everything up in the air in a fluid state of endless process and multiple outcomes.