Photographing Your Artwork
- 2-D work should not have a glass or plexi covering to avoid reflections. Use a solid white, gray, or black background (a clean painted wall, seamless paper, or large sheets of drawing paper). For sculptural pieces, you might need a backdrop stand and photo backdrop paper or black velvet (faux versions are cheaper). If you shoot sculptures in your studio, avoid any busy background that detracts from the artwork.
- A tripod and cable release will prevent blurred pictures at slow shutter speeds. Do not use a wide-angle lens. If using a zoom lens, set it mid-range, so the spatial distortion created by all zoom lenses is minimized.
- Indoor, outdoor, and florescent light all have different "color balance". If you shoot film, you must have Tungsten-balanced film for indoor, and Daylight-balanced film for outdoor exposures. If you are using a digital camera, SET THE WHITE BALANCE to the appropriate setting. AUTO or INCANDESCENT are recommended. Your camera may be able to fine-tune either of these settings, press the WB button and rotate the sub-command dial. Lower values make slightly more yellow, higher values lend images a bluish tinge.
- Do not mix light sources. Set up in a room where overhead lights (florescent or bulbs) can be turned off and windows covered.
- For 2-D work, set one light on each side at a 45-degree angle. The distance of the lights from the work is determined by doubling the distance the camera is set from the work.
- If using a digital camera, set IMAGE QUALITY. If you know how to work with RAW files, then choose a RAW setting (for Nikons, this will be NEF), if not then use the next highest setting (JPEG FINE).
- For film, a light meter is recommended to get the proper exposure. Take a reading at the center of the artwork, and at the four corners. Adjust the lights so all the readings are the same. Photograph the largest piece first and continue down in size and the setting will remain correct for all.
- For digital cameras, CHECK THE ISO SETTING. Set it to ISO 100 or ISO 200. Then, set the APERTURE by stopping down to f11 or higher (f16, etc.). For sculpture, you may need higher Aperture/f-stop settings, in order to get a deeper depth-of-field. The camera will then attempt to determine the SHUTTER SPEED if you are in Auto Mode. Or, in Manual Mode you can put in the Shutter Speed suggested by your meter. Take a photo, if the photo does not look good, you can go into Manual Mode and increase or decrease the Shutter Speed accordingly.
- Fill the frame in the viewfinder with the image of your artwork. Carefully align each image in the camera, so the sides are straight up and down, and tops and bottoms are level. Even if you cannot square all the lines, if the entire piece of art is in sharp focus, the image can be squared in Photoshop or other image manipulation software.
- Activate the self-timer, so any motion from pushing the shutter button or you walking nearby is dissipated by the time the shutter actually goes off.
- Shoot at least three shots of every piece - one shot at what the meter indicates is the correct exposure; one stop over-exposed; and at least one under-exposed - even if it looks great on the LCD. Dark art needs more exposure (wider apertures - smaller f numbers), and lighter work needs less (smaller apertures - bigger f numbers).
- Playback images on the LCD often, to be certain they are in focus and the exposure is as close as possible to correct. If your camera lets you enlarge the image, do it.
- Some digital cameras have adjustments to TURN OFF the automatic flash.
- Digital cameras have Auto Focus settings, double check that the camera you are using has the appropriate setting chosen.
Additional considerations for video installations:
- Sometimes a wide angle lens is helpful in getting an overview shot.
- TV and projector images turn blue in tungsten light, and are usually much brighter than the rest of an installation. Sometimes you can adjust this by putting an 81A filter over a TV monitor or projector lens.
- It may be easier to shoot the images digitally on a high quality digital camera (at least 5 megapixels) then adjust the color in the computer or combine parts of the exact same shot that you have bracketed (widely) for exposure, (Take an exposure reading from the TV/projection as well as the other areas of the installation.) You may have to add a little light to get enough visual information in the non-video part of the image.