Tips for Photographing Your Illustrations

Whether you own a high end DSLR or a good point and shoot camera it’s possible to get great shots of your artwork. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Camera Tips

Whether you are using a DSLR or pint and shoot camera, try to use an ISO setting of no more than 100. You may get away with 200 but don’t go beyond to avoid excessive digital noise.

Use a lens cloth to properly clean your lens.

Use the aperture setting (usually marked “A” on the camera) and an aperture setting of at least f8 or f11 to get lots of detail in your image.

If you camera is capable of shooting in RAW (CRW) format please choose this rather than jpeg as your images will have less compression and can be adjusted with better results later on your computer.

Use the camera timer or a trigger rather than pushing the shutter with your hand. That small movement can result in a blurry image.

Choose a “white balance” setting that suits the lighting you are using. Example: use ‘tungsten if you are shooting with old fashioned rough light bulbs, overcast for an overcast day etc.

Straight & Square

Get your artwork square to the wall, plumb and level. You artwork needs to be parallel to the lens. If it’s hanging on a wall get your camera dead center so the lens isn’t tilted at all.

If you have to tilt it on against the wall you will need adjust the camera tilt so the lens and art are parallel.

Another option is to lay the artwork on the floor and shoot from directly above using a stepladder. It’s important that you are shooting straight down and not on an angle.

Good Light Is The Key

If you have a large bright window directly across from where your artwork is hanging that is ideal, however, you want to avoid having direct sun hitting the artwork.

If you don't have great lighting indoors, shooting outside on a bright but overcast day will also work very well.

Turn Off Your Camera Flash

Having the camera flash hit your artwork will almost always result in a badly lit image with lots of washed our color and glare.

On-camera flashes can exaggerate textures in your paintings and multimedia pieces too much, making it tough to see the actual artwork.

Use a Tripod!

It is imperative that the camera be completely still, especially when shooting in natural light because the shutters speeds can be slower and hand-holding you camera will result in camera shake.

If you don’t own a tripod try placing your camera on a bookshelf or stack up some plastic storage bins or boxes. There are lots of things that can double as a tripod.

Fill The Frame With The Artwork

Use your viewfinder of digital display to check to be sure that the artwork fills as much of the frame as possible. Depending on the shape of your art it often won’t fill the entire frame.

You may also want to try using the ‘macro’ setting (usually marked with a small flower to capture smaller portions of the artwork if it is an abstract painting.

If Your Art Is Under Glass

Obviously if you can get the artwork out of the frame you’ll get better shots but there are ways to avoid those harsh highlights from the glass if you just can’t remove the art. If you have access to studio lights you can place them at 45o to the artwork This can take some trial and error until you get the lights get just right but if you absolutely cannot remove the art form a frame it's worth a try.

Tips For Processing Your Photos

You can use Photoshop to whatever came with your camera to process those images. There are lots of different software programs out there. The main this is to avoid using an ‘auto’ setting to process your pictures if possible. Also avoid adding excessive sharpening to the image.

If you are using Photoshop there are some easy things you can do to brighten up the photograph and make the colors pop.

Here’s an image I shot with incorrect white balance. I know my walls are white so before I crop the art I can correct this rather easily:

First off, make sure your 'Adjustments' palette is open ('Windows' > 'Adjustments'). Then in the layers palette click that half black circle at the bottom of and choose ‘curves’ from the list.

With this new layer selected go to your Adjustments palette. Make sure that wobbly line is selected.

If you mouse-over the eyedroppers it will tell you what color they each represent. The bottom one is white and I know I have white in this image so I’ll choose that one. Then I simply Click the wall and it corrects the color for me. If you have gray or black in your image it works the same way - just choose the appropriate eyedropper. This change can sometimes be too severe but you can always reduce it a little by reducing the opacity of the adjustment layer.

Mine was a bit too bright and contrasty, so I made another one of those ‘curves’ layers but this time click and drag that angled line into a slight ‘S’ shape. The right side are highlights and the left side is darker areas.

You can always add more of these ‘adjustment layers’ to try different variations of Brightening and contrast or anything from that list. As long as you use that little half-shaded circle it will create layer which is easily removed and does not damage your original photograph.

Here is a comparison of my before & after images. The original one (left) is dull and a little boring while the adjusted one (right) has much more contrast and saturation. These adjustments can be can be even more helpful when adjusting the color and tone if your painting is on white paper. Just be careful not to go too far and completely blow out the texture.

Always use the ‘save as’ feature and not a ‘save for the web’ option as the quality will be poor. Save your images at the very highest quality setting. In Photoshop that is level 12.

Image Credits

Kids Photo Shoot by RUSSELLTATEdotCOM

O is for Octopus by RUSSELLTATEdotCOM

Digital Camera by xxmmxx

Digital photo camera by studiocasper

Vintage Camera by Stratol

Pro Digital Camera by Rouzes

Bubble Level by TokenPhoto

Light bulb clipart by Rellas

Retro Style Paparazzi Photojournalists by passigatti

Camera Tripod by hudiemm

Antique Frame Collection by herkisi

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