Photographing Your Art Part 1

By Armand Cabrera


 It is always good to have high resolution images of your paintings for possible licensing deals, illustrations and editorial write-ups.  If you can’t afford professional services hi res digital files can be taken now with reasonably priced digital SLR cameras.
If you choose to shoot digital photos of your work make sure to burn them to CD or DVD.  I talk about archiving here.
Set your image quality to Camera Raw or at least Fine this will give you an image at 300 DPI.  Make sure the image of the painting fills the view screen.  If you don’t own a digital camera, it’s time to buy one.  You can get a reasonably high-quality, 24 mega-pixel (18 x 24 inch, 300dpi image) camera for fewer than 800 dollars (at the time of this writing).
When the weather cooperates you can shoot outside. I choose to shoot in shade not direct light because I think it gives me the best color balance for my paintings.
While taking images outdoors will work it’s better to have a place indoors you can setup and not have the weather dictate your schedule.
If you can have your work professionally photographed then you should hire a photographer.  A professional photographer that specializes in shooting traditional art will make your life easier and save you time that you could use for painting. Shooting your own images requires the proper equipment. If you would rather do it yourself you will need some things to make it easier.
Easel or Tripod
It’s good to have a studio easel and tripod for taking photos of your paintings. I like a black sheet placed behind the easel and then position the painting so that it is within the area of the sheet when you look through the view finder of the camera. I set up the camera 4 ft from the painting and make the painting perpendicular to the angle of view for the camera.
If you also paint outdoors your tripod for your pochade will work just fine just swap the quick release plate from your painting box to your camera.
I recommend a bank of  at least four 48 inch fluorescent or LED daylight bulbs for indoor work. The bulbs should have a CRI rating of 90 or more. I have an article about studio lighting here.
Camera or other device
A good image for print ads would be 9 x12 inches at 300 DPI. Most current digital SLR cameras, tablets or smartphones can shoot at that level of detail. The difference is the quality of the image and lens. Obviously a good digital SLR camera has a better lens and sensor than most other devices. It comes down to your budget. If it is another device other than a camera though, Make sure you can attach it to a tripod for stable shooting. If you want to make prints of your work for sale then you will need a better camera that can shoot a larger file.
Computer and Software
You will need a computer and image editing software for correcting your photo. I recommend Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for image editing but it depends on your needs and budget again. I use my software for thumbnails, image generation, and photo editing, not just for shooting paintings.


Next week I will go through the steps I use to clean up my images with Photoshop.

Photographing Art Digitally Part 2


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.