If you plan to display your artwork online, or you want to make prints or greeting cards, a good quality image is essential. You need to be able to show your work off to its best advantage, so here are a few tips which may help you.
Choose the right settings
Always use the highest quality setting on your camera. If you don’t want to use a tripod, select a fairly high shutter speed as well.
If you have manual settings available on your camera, try using different combinations of sensitivity (ISO) settings with different shutter speeds.
If you have your camera sitting on a tripod, use a slower shutter speed. At a slower speed, you will often get an improvement in colour rendering.
Digital photography means that you can take lots of pictures and then select the best one – don’t be afraid to experiment with the different settings. Once you have found a combination of settings that best represents your style of artwork, make a note so that you can use it for the next set of photos.
Note: If it’s your intention to have prints or cards made from your photograph, you need to have a high very quality image. Most printers will require at least 300dpi resolution, and possibly more if you are having prints made via the Giclee process.
Aligning your image
Make sure you photograph your artwork square-on, make the centre of the artwork the point of focus, and ensure you fill the frame as far as you can.
Try to stand back a little from the artwork. If you stand too close, you may need to use a wider angle on the camera, which can cause the type of distortion commonly referred to as foreshortening. Stand back and use the camera’s zoom to fill the frame. However, if you’re using a phone camera, don’t stand too far back. The phone camera zoom can degrade the image quality – this is a known issue with phone cameras.
Lighting your artwork
Artificial light is notorious for creating a colour casts (usually an unpleasant orange or blue). If you need to use artificial light, you will need to reset the white balance on the camera.
To avoid the artificial light problem, photograph your artwork in the open air if you can. It is preferable if the artwork is in some kind of shade, as bright sunlight can cause a glare from paper.
Turn off your flash! Flash photography is a disaster on artworks that are behind glass – you will get uncontrollable flare and hot spots. If you intend to photograph your artwork, do it before framing it so you won’t need to try to photograph through glass.
Use a tripod
A tripod is a great way to ensure you get crisp images. However, be aware that most digital cameras have a vibration reduction or stabilisation feature, which is great when it comes to minimising camera shake for hand-held pictures. If you’re using a tripod and a remote shutter release, professional photographers recommend that you switch off image stabilisation. The reason for this is that the tripod is acting as a stabiliser, and when you press the shutter release, the camera’s stabilisation process can cause the camera to ‘kick’ slightly, resulting in a blurred image. If you do switch off the VR feature, be sure to switch it on again afterwards.
Use the viewfinder
If your camera has a viewfinder, it’s better to use it rather than rely on the display screen. Having the viewfinder to your eye will steady the camera, and you will get less camera shake (and therefore sharper images).
Keep the image clear
Don’t forget to turn off any date function, and ensure easel clamps, brackets, picture frames and clips are not casting a shadow or coming into shot.
Check that the image is not only sharp but also square, and the result will always look better if you crop out anything from around the edges (including the frame).
Photo editing software is pretty useful but can be quite expensive. If you don’t want to spend money on software, there are free products available on the internet for download. I have been told that ‘Picasa’ is not only free but is reputed to be both effective and easy to use.