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Tips for Photographing Your Art

As an artist, you will often be required to submit your artwork online. Since it is the first and perhaps only impression the juries will see, it is important that it is an accurate representation of your work.

I would like to share with you the process and lighting setup of using an actual camera as well as using natural lighting with your phone camera to achieve the best results.

Digital Camera

  1. Position artwork parallel to your camera.

  2. Use a tripod.

  3. f you are photographing art that is already framed behind glass, you will need to angle the light source to minimize glare as well as diffuse light with a diffusion fabric. It is best to photograph art before framing if possible.

  4. Properly Light your artwork.

Equipment: 2 lamps or bulbs, stands, clamps, diffusion fabric, tripod, and camera.

You can purchase inexpensive lights housed in a bracket that has a built-in clamp at Home Depot or Lowes. You can use any type of white fabric as diffusion, pillowcase works great. The idea is to just soften the light to prevent glare, especially when photographing canvas.

A) Artificial Light – You can use lamps or strobes. Do not use flash.

Use Daylight Bulbs if you can. As they are the most natural spectrum, this is important because you don’t want the temperature of the light to affect the colors in your artwork.


Place the 2 lights on separate stands at a 45degree angle from the artwork you are photographing. One on each side with your camera in the center of the two lights. Place diffusion material over the front of the bulbs (careful not to place it directly on the


Camera Settings:

  1. Be sure your camera is set to an ISO of 100 as this will allow the proper sensitivity of light entering the camera's light sensor and will not become grainy, or pixilated. If you use a high ISO you will have a pixilated image.

  2. When photographing on manual mode you want to adjust the f-stop or aperture, of your DSLR camera. This controls the amount of light the lens lets into the camera’s light sensor. Typically an aperture of f8-f10 will create the sharpest image.

  3. The sharpness of the image is directly related to too wide of an aperture and camera shake. Camera shake can be avoided by using a tripod and setting your camera’s timer to four or five seconds so that when you press the shutter button it doesn’t cause a shake in your image. The aperture should not be open farther than an f8 or some of the elements in the image will become blurred, this is known as depth of field. If you’re photographing with your camera on auto just be sure you don’t have any of the filters on as they can interfere with your artwork colors.

  4. Position the camera on the tripod to ensure maximum sharpness. Make sure that your camera is parallel to the artwork. The lens should be aimed in the center of the artwork. Use all focus points/autofocus.

  5. Be sure to fill the entire frame with your image. This will avoid unnecessary editing and too much cropping, which will change pixels size in your image, sometimes rendering it too small to print or display properly.

5. Avoid Keystone Angles. This skews the image. Hold the camera straight and parallel to the image.

6. Photographing 3D or Sculpture Artwork.

7. Select a neutral background. Make a background with a curved piece of paper taped to a wall. Place the sculpture on top of the paper to photograph. This will isolate the object from distractions of a horizontal line from the wall or unwanted textures.

B) Natural Light

Equipment: Diffused light inside, open shade outside. Camera/Tripod

  1. When photographing inside with natural light, select a room with lots of window light, and if you have blinds that diffuse the light these work really well. However, don’t close the blinds or curtains if they block the light entirely and darken the room. Face the artwork toward the window light and place your camera between the window and your artwork. Avoid direct sunlight on art

  2. Turn off any fluorescent and incandescent lighting, as this will cause a blue or yellow tint respectively.

  3. Photographing in outdoor light is an option. Just be sure to find a spot that is not windy.

  4. Avoid direct sunlight as it causes too much contrast and creates unwanted shadows.

  5. Open shade is the best. Open shade is found anywhere you find shade, but the sun is still present around you. For example a covered patio or deck, a deep door well, an umbrella (just be careful if it is colored as you will get color cast onto your artwork.) between buildings, etc. Just be aware of going into a total deep shade with no surrounding light as this will cause the temperature of the light to be much cooler.

  6. The sunlight should be behind you if you are unable to find open shade.

  7. Avoid dappled light.


  1. Hang art on the wall inside of a room with good window light.

  2. Turn off incandescent and fluorescent lighting, as this will cause a yellow or blue color cast respectively.

  3. Use a tripod if you have one

  4. Position artwork parallel to your camera phone.

  5. Use the Grid on your Camera A) Camera Settings: Launch Settings-Switch Grid On-Close Settings-Open camera app.

  6. On the viewfinder, you will see two crosshairs (yellow and white), if you are not level with the image angle. Adjust until you see only one yellow crosshair. If the edges are curved you will need to move farther away from the artwork.

  7. Take multiple images. Also, turn Live off.

  8. Crop image

A) Edit-Crop (icon)-straighten-pull corners-done

Additional Editing. It is not advisable to edit with any type of a filter when photographing your artwork as it will not be an authentic representation of your work. However, it may be necessary to slightly boost contrast or exposure or sharpen an image without changing it’s integrity. You can use an app like Adobe Lightroom or just use the settings for these small tweaks on your phone's camera settings. Be very light-handed, you don’t want someone to be disappointed when they see your actual work and it doesn’t match your digital image.

9. Avoid Keystone Angles as this skews the image. Hold phone straight and parallel to artwork.

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