How best to photograph art

How best to photograph art

Today, when viewing of art is largely online and collectors are taking decisions based on images, it is critical to click good pictures of artworks.

Grainy, low-resolution and poorly defined photographs of artworks are clearly not helpful.

As an artist, it is important to ensure that photographs of your artwork do justice to it and appear as close to the original as possible. Today, when viewing of art is largely online and collectors make a decision based on the image, it is even more critical to photograph the artwork in a professional manner. Grainy, low-resolution and poorly defined photographs of artworks are clearly not helpful.

From my experience, nothing is more irritating than poorly aligned frames, differently coloured backgrounds, dark, unclear images, reflections of other objects on it, glares and hot spots. For sculptures or any three-dimensional artwork, poor angles, shadows, single-point perspectives and distracting backgrounds are a big put off.

Taking good photographs of your art is an acquired skill and one can improve with practice. However, many artists rely on professional photographers who can take excellent quality images, and this can be a great option for those who have the budget for it and when an entire body of work needs to be photographed at a time.

The lighting for the art plays a crucial role and usually, natural light is a good option for your art. Ambient and diffused lighting is better than direct focused light or a flash. Shadows are completely undesirable, and therefore, plan to optimise lighting in order to eliminate shadows. Glares caused by reflection should also be avoided.

No touch-ups please

The surface of the artwork will also determine the kind of lighting that is best for it. For instance, any reflective surface such as glass or an acrylic sheet will film better in natural light in an open area. Direct sunlight does not offer favourable conditions. However, it is best to take photos before framing the work.

A neutral background is essential and it is important to have linear, perfectly aligned edges. It is best to use a white background; for paintings and drawings, the art should fill up the space — avoid showing a border around it, it’s unnecessary. It is important to keep the camera stable, and it might be best to use a tripod, if that is possible. For sculptures, use a white background and take multiple photos to show how it would appear from different angles. A video of the artwork is also a great way to present it.

It might be tempting to touch up colours and enhance the image, but as long as the image is close to your art, it is best to not edit it in any way.

The photograph is only meant to guide the viewer to your art and it only needs to appear professionally taken, not enhanced. Buyers and collectors can be disappointed if the physical piece does not match with the photograph.

The author is a Bangalore-based art consultant, curator and writer. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached on artsceneinfo@gmail.com

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