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Photographing my art – beginner level

Photographing your art

I set out to learn about photographing my art for two reasons:

  • to get better photos for submission to shows
  • to have good enough digital images that can be reproduced as prints

The kind of art work I am photographing is 2 dimensional most of the time, with some 3d.
Up till now I have used my phone, my tablet, and another digital camera with a wide angle lens to take photos of my work. BUT the photos came out with a gold cast from incandescent lights, and I could never get them quite straight, or with high enough resolution to make prints I could sell. So the equipment I had didn’t really allow me to do what I wanted.

I am part of the way along in understanding how to do this for myself.

Here’s what I have set up for photographing so far:

  • A backdrop of very dark blue velvet (I had this on hand — I would prefer black) The velvet absorbs most of the light, and it doesn’t seem to affect the color appreciably.
  • A vertical easel. I once used some hanging grids that  an artist friend had loaned me for another purpose. The grids actually worked better for me, but I own the easel.
  • A Nikon D5200 camera purchased at Sam’s club on sale. I recently got this very nice camera — this was the commitment moment for me. I decided to take this project on and learn how to photograph my own art.
  • The Camera came with two lenses. I use the Nikkor 55-200mm telephoto, and avoid all wide angle lenses for this purpose.
  • A tripod. I read reviews, and picked a Bower telescoping model that seemed substantial enough and would go high enough to photograph larger works.
  • Lighting. Two light stands with reflectors and white umbrellas. There was conflicting info about the need or usefulness of these lights — it’s just the way I chose to go for now.
  • (Something like this: http://www.amazon.com/LimoStudio-Photography-Portrait-Continuous-Umbrella/dp/B00FFJ3QNO/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1393116639&sr=8-14&keywords=photo+lights)
  • The camera came with a bluetooth connection that connects to my phone or tablet so that I could take a photo without touching the camera. This has proven to be VERY helpful. I can preview the image on the tablet, which is MUCH bigger than the viewfinder.
  • A polarizing filter – This is to reduce or eliminate specular highlights, those annoying reflections off the highpoints of your painting. I have not figured out how to work this yet.

camera set up

Several concepts I found helpful:

Lighting

  • You are not trying to focus the light, but get a diffused, evenly lit appearance.
  • Do not point the lights directly at the flat surface, but using two lights, set them at angles (I use 45 degrees to the right and left, at the same height as the surface you are photographing.
  • The camera goes between the lights.

Camera set up

  • Camera and image must be level for best results.
  • Fill the camera view finder with the image, leaving a small border for cropping later.
  • Watch for distortions — make the image square in the viewfinder for best results. This can be very challenging.
  • I place a white card in the photo off to the side to give me something to compare for white balance.
  • I set the camera to take a jpg and a raw image for each shot.
  • ISO 100 to 200
  • Aperture 5-6 is the recommended.

Varnishing the painting

  • I varnish my paintings to finish and protect them. I used to use gloss, but have changed to eggshell which seems to help prevent specular highlights, and I like the change.

Challenges

  • I have to read the manual each time I do this, so you can see I’m in the learning stages.
  • I have not figured out how to set the white balance in the camera yet.

I am a fairly experienced Photoshop user, at least for the way I use it.
I know how to balance the colors, fix shapes and minor edits of reflections.
One thing I haven’t learned yet is how to use the white card I’ve placed in a photo to correct color in either the camera or Photoshop.

If you have info that could fill in the blanks, please share. It would be most appreciated.

 

Here’s the article that got me started.
http://dallasartsrevue.com//resources/How-to-Photo-Art.shtml

Lynette

Three Eggs Over Easy

Crossing the Bridge from “Art” to “Product”

I remember when I first began to consider selling my art. There were a few factors that led to this decision. I wanted to be recognized for the work that I had accomplished, I wanted other folks to like it enough to put it in their homes, and hey, I could use some extra cash! That began a thought process that has taken me on an interesting journey. I’m going to talk about these in some order, though the process was anything but orderly!

First there were practical considerations. Where would I sell the art? Who would want to display it? Where did my art “fit”? How much should I ask for each piece? How much would I actually make and how many of those dollars would I have to share with the venue? How would I get the word out? How much time will this take? How do I balance art making and marketing my work — not to mention the other aspects of life?

Second, there were the emotions. Was I confident that people would like my art enough to buy it? How would I measure up to more experienced artists? How would I feel about rejection? How far will this go–could I possibly make a living making my art?

Third, there was the resistance to actually parting with my work. Related to the emotional aspects of deciding to sell my art, I called the resistance “this hump I have to get over”. These were my precious creations, and like babies growing up and going off to foreign lands, I knew I’d never see most of them ever again! I know this is not unique to me.

Here’s a bit of background. For about 20 years I was a costumer and a costume designer, so I had almost always used my creativity for something that I didn’t keep in my possession. The costumes stayed with the theater, put into storage after the run of a show was over. But these pieces I was now contemplating selling were things that I made without someone else’s direction, not theater collaborations. I had not made them with the idea that they would become “products”, in fact, by it’s very nature this work is much more personal to me. It speaks of my thoughts, humor and ideas. So on the one hand I was used to letting go of my work, and on the other, this new non-theater work, the paintings, collages and assemblages were all made solely from my own creativity.

To be honest though, after awhile I didn’t have enough room for it all!

The first thing I had to find was the willingness to part with the art. So how did I get over “this hump I have to get over”? For me it was a conscious decision to let go of the art. That sounds simple, and it really was like crossing over an emotional bridge. It was a shift in my thinking about art as a precious thing to keep close to myself as opposed to a product to sell. (Truth is, it’s actually something in between.)

I also had to find the confidence to put myself out there in the public eye. Sometimes a lack of confidence will creep in, but overall, I LIKE my art, and others seemed to like it as well. It really takes both for success in selling art. And the good news is, one can find acceptance even in tiny niche markets. My and your art don’t have to be universally liked to succeed, it just needs to appeal to enough folks so that the effort of selling the art one makes is a sensible proposition.

In addition, focusing on the practicalities of getting ready to sell my art helped to allay the fears and resistance that I had. Taking action helps! So does inviting company along for the journey. In order to boost my own confidence, I applied to my first show with two other local Seattle area artists, Maggie Yowell and Amy Peacock. I studied up on what needed to be included in an application, we all set up a day with a friend to shoot professional photos of our work, labeled everything, and together we put together a proposal. Submitted with slides and cover sheets and clever artistic packaging for the submission, that carefully worked out application got us the group show, though it was scheduled for 1.5 years into the future. I wasn’t going to wait around, so I submitted applications in several other places. Many were even accepted.

It may be cliche’ but it’s true: success breeds success.

My first art show was actually a solo exhibit, way before the group show, and I lucked out. I entered and was accepted into the Greenwood ArtWalk, and placed into a dress shop that was about to close permanently, Moki Dugway. The proprietors were extremely welcoming, and allowed my work to stay up all month. As their inventory dwindled, so did mine. I had decided that as a beginner exhibiting artist, I should price my art reasonably. I really wanted folks to take it home. And take it home they did.

By this time I was hooked and the issues I listed at the start of this article were nearly all moot points. This decision to sell my art launched a highly creative time in my life. I’ve since learned so much about marketing my art that I’d like to share with you. There are lots of practical things I can share, and there are things I’d love to talk over as well. I’m far from expert on the art process–I’m definitely still learning so so much!

To close off this post I’d like to share one more thing. One of my fears was that I’d be selling out in order to sell my art. But I found as time went on and I spent time talking with people that took my work home, this is far from true. It surprised me to discover that people sort of fall in love with the art they choose to take home which is a charming and humbling side benefit to sharing my art in public this way. Relationships like these are unique to artists and artisans. I get to make personal connections in a way that most people don’t.

We’ll be talkin’.

Lynette Hensley
Flying Redhead