How to Photograph Art (part 1)

Getting a great photograph of your art is easy with today’s great digital cameras. All you need to know are some basics about lighting and you can have professional quality pictures for your web-site or brochure. Years ago, when I photographed art in my studio for an artist, we used special daylight balanced light bulbs; they had to be 5500 Kelvin. You also needed a special table to keep the art flat and positioned perfectly for the camera.Now, keeping everything simple is more important than getting it perfect. All you need is a cloudy day or a couple of white sheets to get the perfect lighting you need. When the sun shines through the clouds it creates perfectly diffused lighting. This is what you need to spread the light evenly over your art.When there are no clouds and the sun is shining bright, this creates very harsh lighting with many shadows. You can diffuse the light by using a couple of white bed sheets spread out over some lawn chairs or saw horses. Try to create a tent light structure to let the light shine through the sheets. This will simulate a cloudy day. There are also special lighting tents that you can buy for product photography. I have seen many different sizes at very reasonable prices on e-bay.When photographing a product inside, I pull out my daylight balanced construction lights. These inexpensive lights work great! I usually pull off the protective grill on the front, so that I don’t get any shadows from the grill. They also come with sturdy tripods that you can move around easily. The lamp is usually a 250 or 500 watt halogen lamp. This is plenty of power for any indoor photography project.Halogen lamps give off a higher color temperature compared to a non-halogen incandescent lamp or a fluorescent lamp. My first choice in lighting is using my yellow colored construction lights with their tripod for all my indoor photography projects. You can buy them at any Home Depot at bargain prices, compared to what you would pay for professional photography lights.You can also use daylight balanced fluorescent lights. These energy efficient lights will screw into a standard reflector and distribute your light evenly. However, they lack the luminance of a halogen bulb, and would require you to use a tripod or your pictures may be out of focus.Here are my three steps for getting great pictures of your artwork.1. Wait for a cloudy day before taking any pictures2. Lay your art flat on a table or have someone hold your art parallel to your camera3. If photographing your art inside, position your lights on each side at the same distance, and at a 45 degree angle to the art work. Use a tripod for your camera on all indoor photography and you can avoid getting pictures that are not in perfect focus.