5 Top tips for taking better photos of paintings

By Nicole Tinkham
5 Top tips for taking better photos of paintings

Are you still wasting time snapping photos of your artwork with your smartphone in bad lighting, trying to get rid of the shine and glare, and becoming frustrated with the whole process? We understand the struggle all too well. Before giving up and hiring a professional, read over these 5 top tips for taking better photos of paintings. You don’t even have to be a camera know-it-all to achieve a nice photo of your work. It’s all about the right equipment, lighting, and some simple camera settings that do all the work for you.

1.    Invest in a camera and a tripod

If you want PROFESSIONAL quality photos of your paintings (which we strongly recommend), you’ll need to invest in a decent camera. Sorry, but your smartphone may not cut it this time. We must admit, we aren’t the camera experts but this blog does a great job on explaining what to look for when shopping for a camera.

A sturdy tripod is another thing you’ll want to have. They allow you to line up your shot and keep the camera steady for a nice picture. They don’t cost a whole lot but you should invest in a decent one that’s easy to use and easy to move around.

2.    Photograph paintings BEFORE framing them

When photographing your artwork, you want to avoid shine at all costs! That means no varnish and no glass frame unless of course you want shiny highlights in your photo (trust us, you don’t want that!). Wait until all photography is finished before framing.

3.    Get the perfect lighting

When possible, use natural lighting to photograph your artwork. Hint: Morning light seems to work best! If you’re taking photos outside, do it when there’s a little bit of overcast so the light isn’t too harsh. When taking photos, we’re typically concerned with whether or not the subject is in the frame. This is important but you should also train your eye to notice the lighting. The light should be consistent over the whole piece. You don’t want one side to be in shadow and the other side to be lighter. Check and make sure you can see all the details in the painting. Too light and it’ll look washed out. Too dark and you’ll struggle with lightening it without losing detail when editing. Also make sure you can’t see any white highlights from the weave of the canvas. These can appear when you’re at the wrong angle. Simply adjust the canvas and lighting until you get the perfect angle and those weaves disappear.

4.    Adjust the camera settings

There are a ton of camera settings you can play around with but here are some of the basics that can really make your life easier.

TIME DELAY: A time delay will shoot the photo a couple seconds late which prevents the blurriness that a shaky hand or finger can cause. You can simply press the button and remove your hand from the camera before it takes the photo.

AUTO FOCUS: Let the camera do the focusing for you. Just make sure that the painting is straight and parallel with the camera.

TURN OFF AUTO FLASH: If you don’t have enough light, move around until you do. Using your camera’s auto flash is a big no-no when photographing your work! Instead, play around with lighting elsewhere.

5.    Edit your photos

Don’t freak out about editing your photos! You aren’t doing any major edits, just these few minor things:

Crop the image so you don’t have too much background in your photo

Straighten the image

Adjust the brightness (but only slightly!)

Save different versions and different sizes for print and web

Remember what’s IMPORTANT. Focus on your artwork and stress less about the photography side of things. Investing in a decent camera and tripod will make your life much easier. Lighting can be difficult but play around with it until you find something that works for you. You don’t have to be a photographer to get great photos of your paintings. Just follow the super simple tips in this post and you’ll be well on your way.

What are you currently struggling with when it comes to selling/promoting your artwork? Leave a COMMENT below and it could be our next blog topic!

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