Making Photographs of Artwork.
2 - D:
ISO = Image Sensor @ 100 or 200.   In very basic terms, ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera (but higher sensitivity can cause noise).

Aperture = Space through which light passes (f/8 recommended).  A f/1.4 allows much more light in than an f/8.


  • Make the photos before putting a shiny varnish or glass over it. If it has a sheen (like an oil painting may), then slightly tilt art forward to avoid the glare.
  • Turn off flash.
  • Shoot the photos outdoors - generally diffused morning light between 9:00 am to 11:00 am is best or an overcast day.
-   If it is a really bright day, put the painting in an evenly shaded place.
-   Avoid sunlight striking your object directly, as this will cause glare.
  • HANG art on a flat wall.  
-   Leaning it against a wall will cause the edges to appear warped in the photo.  
-   To soften a warp, match the angle of the lens to the angle of the artwork when making the                  shot.
  • If it is a smallish work, you can place it on the ground and stand directly atop of it - usually on a chair.
  • HOLD the camera very still.  Use a tri-pod if you have one (or a box, fence post, or anything sturdy)
  • Set the image resolution as high as you can; use AUTOFOCUS and Automatic/Daylight setting.
  • Fill the viewfinder with as much of the artwork as you can without chopping it off.   Be sure your lens is centered and then check to see that all the edges of your work are parallel with the edges of the viewfinder (this helps to eliminate distortion).
  • Be sure you don't have anything hanging in front of the lenses (hair or shadows specifically).
  • Make the photo.  Take a few photos of the same piece just to be safe - the tricky part is getting the lens centered and parallel to the object's plane. 

Once you have the shots, import images to an editing program.  Picassa is an easy-to-use and free program that will do most of what you need.
When I’ve taken my images and look at them on the computer, generally I’ll need to do a few things with them…
  • Straighten up the image using the distort tool
  • Crop the image.   You want to GET RID of the background.  The focus should be on the artwork, not the frame or the wall behind it.  
  • Adjust the brightness, contrast and color.  Try to get the digital image to be as similar to the painted image as possible.  Juried shows will reject accepted work if they receive it and it is too dissimilar from what they thought they were getting.

3 - D   (making a lightbox)
*I suggest a seamless paper as a backdrop.

Making images of 3-D objects is similar to 2-D (use autofocus, outdoor/diffused natural light). However, it is difficult to merely crop out the background of a 3-D object so it is important to block it out, if the backdrop is not relevant to the piece.  To do this, IRON a heavy white sheet and set it under and behind the object.  Black fabric might be appropriate, too, depending upon the work.

Move the piece around - and/or move your body around - to get the most complimentary shadows possible.

A 3-D object has many sides, so be sure to get shots from many angles.  Often, it is best to kneel down to get the camera at the same level and plane as the 3-D object.
Acrylic on canvas.
18 x 18"

Jodi  A. Patterson