How to take quality photographs of your artwork

Taking quality photos of your artwork is very important. Whether you are taking for an art competition, blog or social media post, it is imperative that you achieve the closest likeness to your artwork as possible.

Subtle things such as yellow light and the angle of your camera can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your photograph. However, taking a photograph of your artwork like a professional is not that difficult to achieve!

Lighting, positioning and your camera set-up

These are the basic things you need to consider when taking a photograph of your artwork.

It goes without saying that a quality digital camera (like an SLR) with high mega pixels is going to achieve greater depth and quality in your photos, but if you follow the below tips you can create quality photos with almost any type of camera.

  • You need to choose where you will shoot your artwork – inside or outdoors. If you are taking photographs outside, be mindful of glare and position your artwork where you can get an even amount of light.
  • Set your artwork up on an easel as perpendicular as possible. Your artwork’s edges must be parallel with the view finder of the camera. If it is tilted at all, the shape or your artwork will be distorted. Try not to zoom in too much, and leave as little space around the artwork as you can (which you can edit later on the computer).
  • If you are taking photographs indoors, make sure the light is coming from one source, either natural light from a window or one fluorescent overhead. Also make sure that the fluorescent light is not green or yellow, because this can really affect the colour of your artwork. Your camera might have a “white balance” setting for florescent, halogen, lamp, candle etc. which you can experiment with.
  • You can either use the auto-focus centre on your camera, or the manual set-up if you can. For manual set-up, you will want to have the aperture lower, which will let in less light and give the image more depth. Ideally you would use a tripod, or rest the camera on a surface to keep the camera stable.
  • Try to take a lot of pictures of your artwork. It takes a bit of effort to set up the photograph, so it is better to have a lot of images to choose from when you load them onto your computer.

Once you have done this a few times you will get to know your camera and hopefully find a good location to take photographs.

In this digital age, where over 1.8 billion images are uploaded everyday on Instagram alone*, it is important to publish quality. Every image of your artwork on the internet is part of your on-line folio.

* http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/now-upload-share-1-8-billion-photos-everyday-meeker-report-224688.html

Managing a Creative Project

Often, working creatively is seen as a completely intuitive, whimsical and spontaneous process. Nobody that I know, who is producing consistently, works in this way. While intuition and spontaneity do play a part in the creative process often it is just dogged persistence that gives results. I have put together the following chart to help manage and encourage persistence in the creative process.

Managing a Creative Project

Managing your creativity

It can be difficult to do creative work when you have limited time and have to maintain other responsibilities such as study, work and family. So how can you achieve the most with the limited time you have?

I have frequently struggled with this question and have put together the following thoughts based upon my own experience and that which I have observed in the lives of other artists.

Curiosity

Creativity is a part of life and should not be isolated to your work time. A curiosity and passion for life is a key element of getting ideas. Creative people usually have an interest in how things around them look, feel, smell, how people behave and what makes things work and not work.  They tend to appreciate other people’s creative work and the natural world. They observe and they reflect. So, although life may be busy, the many instances when we are engaging in our daily routines present many opportunities to use our natural curiosity and to be passionate about our existence. This engagement with life will breed new thoughts and ideas.

Space

You need a space to explore ideas playfully. This is a place for your creative work. Perhaps this could be a room, a corner, a desk or your studio. It can be a place where you leave special objects and your associated thoughts. This is a place where you leave your work and can return to it to see it again. It is a well organised space that has the materials you need, when you need them so that you can pick up on a thread of an idea quickly. When completing your creative work, you take the time to reflect on your work while cleaning and organising your space so that it is ready to receive you the next time you come.

Journal

Ideas and observations are a special insight and they need to be treated carefully so that we can all benefit. They can lead to great work but we have to be ready to record them as they come. A journal, a sketch book or book you can write in offers a place to jot ideas, sketch, observe, plan and play. It is a private space and you can put down whatever comes to mind regardless of whether it makes sense at the time. I keep several journals and pencils around me. I have one in the car and I usually travel with one. Although I am often away from my work space I try to maintain a discipline of drawing and writing in my journal. It becomes my little travelling work space.

Consistency

Be consistent in your work schedule even if it is only a few hours a week. Your commitment to journaling or working in your space is important for your creative development.  If you are like me you will find that periods of time pass when you are not able to be consistent. If you have been maintaining a curiosity and passion for the tasks you have been doing in your life, you probably have been creative in other ways and this will be useful for your work when you return.

Unclutter

Our minds need the freedom to process information and ideas. I find that my mind works better if I am able to release myself from worry, apprehension and needless distraction. I try to limit wasteful distractions, my ideas mostly coming from my daily experiences and reading. I think carefully about whether I need extra ‘things’ in my life as the more I have, the more my mind is occupied. I try to maintain a routine that allows me to free my mind at some stage in the day. Curiously, I’ve found that I get my best ideas while doing menial tasks such as washing the dishes. This document came to me while washing the dishes and was initially written on some serviettes.

The pressure we put on ourselves to be creative can also clutter our minds. For me it was a combination of a demanding life with the added pressure of coming up with new ideas that had for a period of several years brought my creative work to a standstill. It was only after walking away from the pressure to create that I found ideas began to flow again. I have learnt a lot from that experience. I now cycle my projects through a process of focusing on them then letting them go. I will work on the project until it is clear I am making little headway. I then leave it alone, switch to another project or task until from somewhere in my subconscious mind the solution to the problem emerges or until I am ready to return to the project with a clear mind. Then I repeat the process for the next stage of the project.

Set Objectives

Once you know which direction you want to go in then apply clear objectives and parameters to ensure you get there.

What is it you want to achieve?  What are the qualities your successful project will have? What is the strategy you can employ to get there? Who or what can help?

Feedback

Seek feedback from positive people whose judgement you trust and avoid exposure to people whose judgment you don’t trust. With sincerity and openness, you may find the opportunities to befriend people that have the knowledge and experience you seek.

Discuss your work with others as it develops and always be open to new perspectives.

Exposure

Find places to expose your work. If you have worked hard for your idea then you need to be a good advocate for it. Telling a story about the development of the idea will most likely draw some interest.

Rest

Take a break. After a heavy work schedule on a project you need rest your body and to free your mind so that you can return to living with a curiosity for life.

Drawing , photography and time

Jesse Dayan, Before 1960, oil on canvas

Jesse Dayan gave a facinating talk last night about his most recent Brunswick show. He described this work as a form of research into the implications of the use of photographs within drawing and painting practice. Of particular interest to me was his description of how each medium relates to time and each other. I am hoping to put up a transcript of the talk soon.