How to Shoot Paintings

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How to Photograph Paintings

A painter or gallery owner knows the importance of being able to sell their artwork online or through social platforms. Photography allows for easy sharing of their paintings. A clear and crisp picture of the artwork provides the buyer with detail, colour, and texture of the piece, and be more inclined to purchase it. Here’s how to photograph your artwork and paintings (for showcasing online, over the phone, or as a reference).

Time needed: 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Here’s how to photograph paintings (for online sale/portfolio)

  1. Find a studio or setup a space

    First, we need a space to shoot the artwork. You will need to clear a space within your workshop or gallery to photograph the pieces. You could hire out a studio, or well-lit room, to do this. You will need a plain wall, or desk to lay the painting onto. Pick a spot that works for you, whether that is in your gallery (close to your images) or big enough to hold your set up of cameras/tripods/lighting.
    Paintings/frames line a room, which can be converted into a studio for shooting - Photo by Joseph Morris on Unsplash

  2. Fix the lighting (twin, identical lights are standard)

    Once we have a space set up to shoot the subject, we will need to acquire two light sources (for traditional artwork). These will be positioned at 45-degree angles in front of the painting. This creates a clean, even wash, without any shadows. You can defuse the light source by moving it further back, or covering it in a white cloth. The light should be evenly distributed, and all natural lighting (windows) should be covered when using artificial lights. Artificial lighting gives more consistent results. This is great for capturing finer pieces of art, like abstract paintings.

  3. Tweak camera settings

    A modern SLR or mirrorless camera is a good choice for taking photos of paintings. The ideal focal length should be around 80 – 100 mm. It is recommended to shoot with a low ISO setting and save images in RAW format for editing.

  4. Prepare paintings

    We need to get the painting ready for the photo shoot. Start with removing the painting from the frame. The painting should not be photographed under glass! You can take a fan or hairdryer and lightly blow the painting to remove any dust. Place the painting on the easel, wall or table for shooting. The sides can be held down with tape or flat-headed tacks.

  5. Test shot and adjust

    The painting should sit eye-level to you, or in the centre of the camera viewfinder. The camera, once placed on the tripod, should be well positioned to capture the image directly between the two light sources. Take a few images, review them, and make adjustments to settings where necessary.

  6. Get editing

    Once you have taken several images of each painting, you can load them into an editing program. Crop out any white space or background, remove distortion, and retouch the colours and sizing. keep an original copy of your images, and resize/compress the final images for print/website/sharing.

We hope our tips on how to shoot paintings are helpful. By taking the time and effort to properly photograph your paintings will improve your chances of selling or displaying them online and for sharing. Buying art online is becoming more popular and also more accepted.

Potential buyers will appreciate the high-resolution, sharp images available for them to view before making a decision. Good luck!

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