Have you ever just completed a painting that you absolutely love...all the right values...brilliant color...eye catching compositions? Then, you rush to the digital camera to capture your masterpiece for everyone else to enjoy...only to be be devastated by the results on your computer screen.


This happens all too often for me as my photography skills are lacking, if not missing completely. The values are too dark or too light...the colors are way off...no more brilliant hues, just muddy colors, etc...this seems to be the standard for me when trying to capture a correct representation of my work. Sometimes, I think I spend more time trying to "fix" a digital image than I did to actually paint it.


So, what kind of tips do you fellow artists have for photographing your artwork in order to upload it to a website, etc...?

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Jeremy, I have used adobe photo shop for years, using CS 5 now.  I have always used OEM versions a fraction of the cost.  Photoshop is a huge program and I use less than 1% of what's available in it, but what I do use is indispensable to me.  Basically I use, Levels, Hue - Saturation, Selective Color, The Cropping tool with perspective, and Image size adjustments.  However PS can not fix a poor photo.  I have best success taking shots outside on an overcast day and sometimes at an angle to reduce glare.  I could show you all of these things sometime and save a couple a thousand words.  Hope this helps.

Jeremy, this is something I am always trying to improve on. The white balance is really important. Most digital camera's have a set white balance feature. Lately I have been using an 18% grey card to calibrate the white balance. You can a buy a card at a good photo store or online This really helps though I still may do some tweeking. Make sure you shoot the grey card on the plane of the painting as the angle is real important. Some colors are still tricky to deal with eg. light blues and reds are hard to get accurate. I shoot at an angle outdoors usually from above to reduce glare and try to always shoot pictures outdoors on an overcast day this helps to reduce the blue cast in the sky and all the other influences of intense light. I then use the full version of Adobe Photoshop using the cropping tool with the perspective box checked to square up the image. Then to image size to get the ratio correct eg 18 x 24 cooesponds to 9 x 12 and 300 dpi will create about a 4.5 MB file also after all my editing is done and saved I will also save a 72 dpi file and 1000 pixels on the max side and use the save for the web option which compresses more, and I add the letter s after the file telling me it is small. If the image turned out good I like to tweek the levels. You will know when it is good photo just by looking at the curve. It will be a nice bell curve with room on both ends. All I do is adjust the siders very slightly on each color red, green and blue. If it is a marginal photo I will also go into hue/saturation and selective colors to to make it work, but it is best to shoot another photo. Adobe photoshop is really a must have for a professional artist who is doing his or her own webwork. You can download an OEM original equipment manufaturer off the internet for around $80.  Below is a before and after image

Thanks for the info Scott. I have a free photo editing program called Gimp...most of which I have no idea how to use, but I did find some helpful tutorials at empty easel: http://emptyeasel.com/art-tutorials/gimp-help/

Help me understand, what is the purpose of shooting the grey card with the painting? To compare it in the digital?

Also, I checked the white balance on my camera and it doesn't have any % settings...it just has "daylight, fluorescent, open shade, and auto". So, I'll have to do some experimenting.

Thanks again for the helpful information!

Sounds like you need a step up camera.  Canon make some real nice digital camera, My son has a G11 which I have used many times, and  I have been using my wife's Canon SD 1100 which is a small point and shoot which does just as good, just shop around for one that has custom white balance future. I have used white cards with inconsistent results and I have found the grey card always being closer. I know that sounds strange because it is not white, but it works.  Can't explain it.  Next time we get together I will show you the difference.  Maybe I will see you in Mooresville on the 31st.

Re: Step up camera and gear in general--run don't walk to a store in Scottsdale, Alabama called Unclaimed Baggage Center.  Prices on tech gear like phones, cameras, readers nooks/kindles (not glasses on the nose) chargers, you name it -- is impressive.  I got the Canon G 9 there for 150 USD and a Kindle as a gift for someone for 35USD. A lot of profi's take the Canon G's in place of the bulkier DSLR's now and I can see why. What a joy in price and usage.  At a market I found an almost new Sanyo Xacti Dual Camera for 50 USD (on internet for just under 300 usually).  It shoots stills or video as selected with push of the thumb, SD card friendly.  This is a great back to school destination, highly recommend this place and it's in pretty surroundings too--so you could squeeze in a plein air session or two for sure and recoup all your temptations--LOL

Hey Jeremy, update from my previous comments,  I have got a camera from my wife who now uses her Iphone for photos, It is a Canon ELPH 300HS You can get it for around $120, this little point and shoot has the most amazing auto white balance that I have seen,  Very little editing needs to be done.  Also I have been using Adobe's new Lightroom 4 for any editing.  You can buy an original license for 2 computers for about $150, I like it a lot better than Photoshop!  Check it out.

Scott, Thanks for the update. I got a Canon ELPH 100 HS recently...which even in its simplicity is much better than the kodak that I had. It has a custom white balance that I'm still experimenting with. I'll have to save up some funds to get the Lightroom 4. Currently I'm using Gimp2...it's free! I'm sure it's nowhere near the quality software as the adobe product, but for now and being that it's free, it's pretty decent.

The main thing I do is straighten and crop, along with some minor tweaking, most of all I really like it's file handling.  which you can save a whole group of images and set the size at whatever for the whole group, eg. 72pix per inch and 900 pix on the longest side, and tag them I always use Scott_Boyle_Art before each img. #.  Check out this cool video on Lightroom 4  one small painting sale would do it.

That is NICE! I like the way it is SO customizable.

I shoot RAW with Canon Rebel and make corredtions with Canon program Digital Photo Professional which has slider features and color level graphs to guide adjustment for  just about anything you can imagine (and came with the camera). It is very forgiving for those who paint better than they use a camera or don't want to bother with fancy set up. I also use Photoshop similar to above descriptions, (CS3) and I find ''Curves'' useful to change high and low key as needed, overall or in sections. When satisfied I ''save as'' a jpeg and adjust the size and dpi for purpose intended  or required for publicaton, online entries, web pages, etc.

Thanks T B Hough for the info. I've been experimenting with "curves" but I usually do my adjusting in "levels"...are there advantages to using curves?

I find some advantage in that it is less ''linear'' in transitions, if this is desireable like in close up eye socket and lip coloration when dealing with anatomical subjects--not something encountered with plein air very often ^-^ but there may be other applications I'm not aware. I paint plein air as alternative to my core biz so not best to ask perhaps. Hope this helps. Thanks for asking, there's a myriad of ways to go about all of this, and my self exploration knowledge is very limited. It's like getting lost in a car in an unfamilar place and orienteering out of it that can lead to a good sense of direction. Just piddeling (sp?) around on an unfamiliar program often leads to a powerful short cut for next time.



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