Want to try creating your own digital files for art cards and press prints? Here is what you need to know to photograph artwork and get good results.
If you have a RAW setting on your camera, use it. If not, put your camera on its highest quality and image size settings. More information is better! We can always make a file smaller, but we can never add information. Use a low ISO to reduce camera “noise”.
Even, diffused light is best. Outdoors on an overcast day will give you a nice even light that won’t create glare or wash out subtle colors. Move away from buildings or trees that may create shadows.
If you’d rather shoot indoors, you can set up good quality tungsten lights with stands. Lights should be set up on either side at 45° angles to the artwork. To avoid glare you will want to put a polarizing filter between your light source and your artwork. A polarizing filter on your camera lens will also help to reduce glare.
Preparing your artwork
Check for dust and dirt on your artwork before taking your photos. And much as it seems like a hassle, you’ll want to take any framed artwork out of the glass to get the best results.
Try to use a Kodak greyscale strip (available at photography supply stores). Tape it directly beside your artwork and make sure it is in the image when you snap your photo. A grey scale strip in your picture means we can determine the actual colors of your artwork with far less guesswork.
Setting up your camera
Make sure your camera is at exactly 90° to your painting or the image will be distorted. Being too close to your subject matter can distort the image too, so get a bit of distance and zoom in on the artwork. For a 35mm camera a 35 – 70mm range should work. And of course, make sure your image is in perfect focus!
For cards and giclee we require 300-400 dpi (in RGB) at 100%. TIFF, PSD (photshop) or JPG formats work best for us.
If you have a scanner, use it for your artwork with matte surfaces – watercolor, pencil, ink, etc. It won’t work as well on glossy paintings as the light will reflect and leave white spots in your digital image. Include a grey scale strip on the scan bed next to your artwork to make colour calibration easier. When you scan your image, it’s best to save the file in TIFF as opposed to JPG in order to keep the maximum amount of information in the file.
If you’d like to try your hand at photo editing but don’t have a program on your computer, there are lots of on-line sites to try out.