How to photograph your paintings

Taking photographs of your paintings for display on your website

The photographs of paintings (or other artworks) are the the most important aspect of an artist website. Needless to say, the better quality your photographs, the more professional your web page will look. If you have the budget, a professional photographer is your best option.

Here is some advice if you want to take the photographs yourself.

How to take digital photographs of your paintings

These days, most people have access to a digital camera. Photographs can be downloaded onto a computer and sent via email or transferred to a disc to send in the post. Generally, if you are only taking pictures of your work for publishing on the web, you do not need a camera of more than 2 mega pixels, but a larger number of pixels will be okay too. It is the quality of the camera lens and the expertise of the photographer that affect the end product, not the number of mega pixels.

Most cameras have various settings for taking photographs e.g. very fine, fine etc. However, the better quality the image, the larger the file size. Unlike images for print, web images only need to have a small file size – a maximum resolution of 100dpi. Therefore, if you are only taking your images for display on a website, you only need use a medium quality or even low quality setting. When you have taken your photos, you can check the quality in your image editing software, crop as required and save using the ‘save for web’ setting if you have this setting, or at the 100dpi setting. Tip: Resize an image to the appropriate sizes for a web enlargement (max 450 pixels for a prortrait image and max 600 pixels for a landscape image), save for the web, then check how it looks full screen. If the quality is okay on your screen, it will look okay on your website too.

If you plan to print any of your images as well as present them on the web, you will need to use the high quality camera setting to take your photos. You can then save your images in a ‘master’ folder. You can then make a copy of your master folder (call the copy ‘webimages’ or something similar) and use the images in this folder new to prepare your web images. You also make another copy of the images in your master folder for your printable images. Tip: never manipulate your master images. Your master images are your backup in case anything goes wrong.

Some common sense tips on taking pictures of paintings

1. Use a tripod if possible – it prevents the negative effect of hand shake.
2. If possible, always remove eventual protective glass from a painting before taking photographs of it.
3. Most people do not have access to studio lights but a spot in the shade outside is just as effective, if not better than studio lights.
4. When taking a photograph, the camera should usually be placed at the same height as, and aimed exactly at the centre of the painting.
5. When photographing small paintings you can get acceptable results if you take your pictures leaning over the painting.
6. You can also try placing the painting against a wall.
7. Either way, you may also find it useful to place a big piece of white cardboard or hardboard behind your painting. This will remove any distracting background and allow the viewer to concentrate on your artwork.
8. The built in camera flash is useless in most cases as it reflects on the painting causing glare – turn off your flash if you can.
9. If you have no choice, put your finger over its centre of the flash to minimise flash reflections.

If you are intending to sell your work, you should consider employing a professional photographer to take the photos, or at least a talented amateur.

Taking photographs of paintings with a mobile phone

Mobile phone cameras are getting better and better. The latest iphone and Galaxy models have cameras and lenses that can match the quality found in standard cameras.

Alternatives to digital photographs – scanning techniques

If you do not have access to a digital camera, an alternative option is scan in normal photographic prints of your work. If you do not have a scanner, you can post the prints to us and we can do the scanning for you (although there would be a small charge for this service).