Skip to main content

Artists spend a great deal of time honing their craft to create beautiful pieces for sale, exhibitions, grants, or personal publicity. However, after all that hard work, one vital element is often neglected – taking great photos of the work, instead settling for a couple of unfortunate pics that barely show the talent and time invested in the piece.

Well-composed photography creates a positive first impression and says so much about an artist’s professionalism and can make all the difference between a sale, winning a show, or catching the eye of an influential client or gallery director. To help you with this, we’ve assembled guidelines to help photograph your art like the pro you are – or are aiming to be.

Your Wall is Your Showroom

While many lean their work against a wall and shoot at a downward angle, this is not the route a professional photographer would take. Composition is essential, as is having a blank background to frame a great work.

  • A neutral-toned wall in shades of white, black, or grey is ideal, as is hanging your work, so the camera is parallel with the shot.
  • Using a tripod or a stable surface assists with a clear focus.
  • Another trick to getting a great image is to set your camera’s timer to four or five seconds, so the shutter button doesn’t shake the camera.

Use Lighting When Shooting Artwork!

When taking photos indoors, choose a room with plenty of natural light, as indirect sunlight is best for art pictures. If the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’re shooting at night, you’ll need a good lighting kit. The great news is that you don’t have to splash the cash for a professional setup as you only need two lights for 2-D art.

  • A standing light with three adjustable bulbs or desk clamp lights can do the trick if you’re on a budget.
  • Position any light setup you have halfway between the camera and artwork at a 45-degree angle, pointing at the wall to eliminate shadows.
  • You can use multiple lights to help eliminate shadows.
  • Take a look at using a light diffuser to reduce light exposure on your artwork when taking photos.
camera lights in studio

Setup Your Camera

Once you’ve placed your artwork on the wall, double-check the camera lens aligns in the centre of your art piece while the frame is edged with a bit of background that can be cropped later. This may even be a stipulation for photographic artwork submissions. The camera’s ISO and aperture (or f-stop) are critical as they determine the clarity and crispness of an image.

  • Higher ISO makes the camera more light-sensitive, creating a coarser image.
  • However, as a crisp image is needed, a low ISO at around 100 is best for most cameras as this helps with making the artwork looking over exposed.
  • The aperture conversely adjusts the light entering with a higher number letting less light through. The ideal range with a DSLR for artwork is between f-8 and f-11.
camera tripod with lights

Find Perfection in the Edit

Many professional-level photo editing software options are available these days, including the reigning champion of photography, Photoshop. However, there are many less-expensive and easier-to-use alternatives available online such as: