Creating a Mobile Independent Artist Business - Part 6: Photographing and Preparing Your Art for Printing

Photographing Your Art


Traditional artists need to be able to photograph their work, so it looks its very best, in order to sell it online. More than that, once you have a high quality digital image of your art, you can begin to use it as a basis for more versions of the same art.

If you're a digital artist, you already have your work in digital format. Skip this step and move down to the heading Preparing Digital Art for Print where I'll talk about image resolutions for printing.

Although you could get a professional to photograph your art (you may want to consider this, particularly, if your work is more 3D and sculptural) capturing a 2D piece of art, such as a painting, is a skill easily learned and will save you a lot of money and time.

Most smart phones have a camera that is good enough quality to print high quality photos from at your local photo center. If you never plan to print your art on anything physical then an image resolution of 1.2 megapixels is more than enough for screen display (in fact it's still over kill). If you do plan to print your art then 1.2 is probably the absolute minimum acceptable quality, aim for a resolution of at least 5 megapixels or more. (My Samsung Galaxy 5S - pictured - has a 16 megapixel camera).

As a general rule the more megapixels the bigger you can physically print your work at without any noticeable loss in image quality.

Apart from a good quality phone camera you don't need any expensive set up to photograph 2D art, such as a painting. Simply take the work outside, and lean it up against a wall in a well lit but shaded area.

You don't need expensive set up to take good photos of your art.
Be sure to fill the camera frame as much as possible.

Check the light being reflected onto your work. Make sure there are no shadows or bright spots. Also make sure you're not under any tinted roofing or shade cloth that could cast a color over your work (e.g. plastic, green, translucent roofing will cast a green shade onto your work).

Once you've done that set your camera up on something stable (a tripod is ideal but anything stable will do) so that it is pointed centrally at your art with the artwork filling most of the frame. Leave a slight border around your art and the edge of frame as some lenses have a minor distortion around the edge of frame.

Remember to orientate your art so it fills as much of the frame as possible... don't go photographing a tall painting in landscape or a wide painting in portrait mode.

You can play around with the settings on your camera if you wish. I usually just make sure the flash is turned off then allow the auto settings to do their magic.

Image Processing


Now that you have your work as a digital image, it'll probably need a little bit of image processing. You'll need to crop away the background and probably do a little bit of color correction.

It's beyond the scope of this article to teach you proper image correction techniques. However they're not too hard to learn, and even using the auto correction functions of your preferred photo editing software will be quite an improvement.

I'll use my artwork (below) as an example of why you'll need basic photo correction skills.

Left: Photo taken in my studio under florescent light.
Middle: Original photo taken outdoors with my phone camera.
Right: Final, cropped and color corrected image.

Notice, in particular that the background on my work looks more green in the first image and black in the second. It's actual color is more of a maroon brown, as per the third image.

Once you have your final image save it away in a folder somewhere as your original digital file. You'll use this as the basis for the image used in prints or other items featuring your art you may like to sell. If you edit the file, always edit a copy. Never edit the original file (even if you're using software that claims to be non destructive).

Creating Digital Art for Print


If your digital art is Rastor based (i.e. you draw and paint with pixels) and you want to print your work out, you need to be working at the highest resolution you can. The easiest way to know a good resolution to work at is to create your work at the same size as a 5 megapixel or greater photograph image file.

Alternatively, if you want to go by resolution then you shouldn't be working at anything less than 300dpi (dots per inch) with 600dpi being my preferred resolution.

Again the higher the better and the bigger you'll be able to reproduce your art in a physical form (such as a poster) and still maintain image quality.

If you create primarily vector art you'll know resolution is less of an issue in the creation process but you'll need to know what resolution to export your images at if they have to be converted into raster file formats like PNG of JPG.

Again, it is beyond the scope of this article to teach you about image resolutions but, just like the traditional artists and the digital photos of their artwork, never work from you original finished art file. Always work on copies so if something goes wrong you can always revert back to the original, finished image.


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Now that you have your finished artwork in a digital format, in the next post I'll look at how you can get more from a single artwork through image manipulation.


This post is part of a series called Creating a Mobile Independent Artist Business. Read earlier parts at the links below:

Part 1: Introduction and Equipment 
Part 2: Business Software
Part 3: Creative Software
Part 4: Social and Marketing Software Plus Your Website
Part 5: Documenting and Sharing Your Work in Progress
Part 6: Photographing and Preparing Your Art for Printing
Part 7: Maximize Your Art by Creating Variations

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