Photography for the lazy artist

Photography for the lazy artist


Even more important than the words that accompany your art are the photos. If your photography is bad, you are sabotaging your art career. This collection of hints is for people like me, who are too intellectually lazy to use their SLR camera properly – photo dummies. But this is what works for me.

You will need to learn about the various kinds of software and equipment, but there are usually good video tutorials on YouTube - if you have the patience to sit through them.

Camera or iPhone? A recent-model iPhone will do in a pinch for social media photos, but I wouldn't use it for a catalogue. I have a Sony a6400 digital camera, which retails for around $1300. I use a Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens, which sells for about $400.

What accessories do I need? I have a tripod and the camera comes with software so I can use my phone as a trigger to take the shots. I bought two Neewer studio lights with stands and softboxes (for filtering the light) for less than $300. When I get fancier, I will get polarising filters for the lights and camera to eliminate shine on dark paintings.

How do I set it up? I cover my TV with a white cloth in the living room, which gets good diffused morning light. The painting is propped against the cloth. The lights are set up at 45-degree angles to the painting, maybe 1.5 metres away, and adjusted to account for the warmer light coming from one side (the sunlight). Look at the shadows on each side of the painting to adjust lighting strength. I do all that by sight rather than science.

Camera placement. The camera is far enough back, so there is a good amount of space around the outside of the painting in the viewfinder. The image tends to distort towards the edges, so it is best to crop it later in post-production. Keep it as square as possible so you do not have to straighten it too much in editing. The less fiddling you do in editing, the better.

Camera settings? Like I said, I've been lazy. It is set to automatic in RAW format (which collects more data for editing). I use a colour-correcting card, called a Spyder Checkr24, which is rested against the painting for the first shot (see accompanying photo). The painting is unframed, so no shadows are cast on the edges.

Editing. I use Lightroom Classic as the editing software. It is an Adobe program with more features than the ordinary cloud-based Lightroom version. I use the software that comes with the Spyder Checkr card to ensure the colours are true to life. I always have to adjust exposure, whites and blacks. The saturation is usually okay. I straighten the edges of the painting to make sure it is perfectly square and crop.

Other shots. I have also started taking photos of the framed works because some galleries prefer to show the frames in their catalogues. I stage photos of the works in different settings and shoot videos for social media.

Can I use these for fine art prints? No. They won't be high enough resolution. I go to a professional art scanner and it's around $80 - $100 for each 3D scan (less if it is a group of small works nested together). The reproduction with fine art printing is so good you can see the weave of the canvas and every brushstroke.

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