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Managing Your Artwork
Customers entering TheArtGallerist.com virtual fine art gallery obviously do not have the opportunity to see your work in person. It is therefore extremely important that we provide them with an experience that is as close to a real gallery experience as possible, which includes seeing the full range of the colors, textures and tones that communicate the power of the original piece of fine art. A little bit of time in this area can definitely make the difference between success and failure whether you are publishing your images to a website, submitting your artwork to competitions, preparing a portfolio of your work for galleries to review, or simply trying to create a historical archive of your work.
Most artists do not enjoy this process in the beginning because they spend hours having to learn how to achieve the best results. To save you that time or to save you the money a professional might charge for taking these photographs, we have attempted to provide you with what we have found to be the best practices when photographing fine art.
All you will need to take professional quality photographs of your fine art is a good quality digital camera (3 megapixels or more) and a tripod, or something sturdy that will eliminate possible movement of the camera when taking your pictures.
Digital cameras already offer many of the features to make your job easier. You should begin by setting up your camera for the pictures you are about to take. It is first recommended that you take your camera out of the Auto mode it may be in. The pre-programmed modes available on your camera may be great for average scenes, but can provide you with inconsistent results under the controlled environment we want you shooting in.
- Set the ISO to its lowest setting. Higher ISO speeds will have more “noise” in the image.
- Set the image size to the largest the camera is capable of shooting in the jpeg file format. Capturing the most pixels will give you flexibility when you “post-process” the image later.
You should shoot your fine art with your camera mounted on a tripod, or other sturdy surface where hand movement will not be a factor. Camera movement is the number one killer of image clarity, and even a slight handheld jiggle will degrade your image. A tripod will also help with aligning your “framing” of a picture to eliminate any “keystoning” of flat artwork. Keystoning is the effect a photograph has when the photograph is not taken from a perfectly level position in relation to the piece you are trying to capture.
To keep things simple, it is always preferable if you can take photographs of your unframed artwork in natural light. While natural light may not always be available, it is still preferable as it does not require any special equipment or tools. Natural light also requires very little modification since it is so soft and even.
The best choice for lighting is from a northern exposure, preferably on a bright but overcast day. Some artists have had good luck using natural light outside in the shade. Direct sunlight can cause glare from the paint. If you are photographing your work indoors, open all available doors and curtains to admit as much diffused light as possible. Be aware of light that may be reflecting from other strongly colored objects as your artwork may pick up that color, which may in turn, affect the color of the image in your photo.
Do not use the camera’s flash. If your camera is indicating that a flash is required, you obviously are trying to take the picture without enough natural light.
Start by hanging the artwork on a wall or easel that is not in direct sunlight and that does not face directly into a window. Smaller pieces may be best laid flat on the ground so they can be photographed with the camera pointing straight down from above.
Set up the camera on a tripod or something solid like a box. Make sure the camera is directly in front of the center of the painting, both horizontally and vertically, to eliminate foreshortening of one edge. Look through the viewfinder to confirm this. In the proper position all four edges of the painting are parallel to the viewfinder's edges.
Move the camera towards the painting, keeping the painting centered in the viewfinder, until the painting's edge meets at the top/bottom or at the sides of your view finder. Alternatively, with a zoom lens the tripod can be kept stationary while the zoom is adjusted so the picture fills the frame. Generally you will not be able to exactly fit the painting into the photograph, so get either the width or height to fill the frame; the other dimension will contain extraneous content that can be removed or masked later. Because the edges of what is visible through the eyepiece will not always exactly match what ends up on the captured image, take some initial exploratory pictures to determine exactly what is recorded.
Ensure the color balance is set properly. You do this by confirming the white balance on the camera is set correctly, otherwise there may be an ugly cast on the final picture. You can rely on the camera’s auto setting for “daylight” or “shade”, but for best results it is good to set the white balance manually.
If your camera has a “custom white balance” setting, turn it on. Place an 18% grey card (or a plain white piece of paper) in place of your artwork and photograph it using the same setup and lighting that you will use for your artwork. This will give the camera a “reference” point to base the white balance on for the rest of the shoot. Another option is to simply include a small piece of white paper in the actual frame when you photograph your artwork (since it is unlikely that artwork will fill up the entire frame of the camera). If you are using this method, you can use your photographic post-process software white balance feature to select the white/grey area of the picture and base your white balance off of that.
Avoid camera shake from your finger by using a cable release, which is essentially an extension of the shutter button available for a few dollars at camera stores, or by using the camera's self-timer to take the photo several seconds after you release the shutter. Remove your hand from the camera after activating the self-timer.
The photos stored in your digital camera can now be downloaded to a computer for review or enhancement. A variety of software exists which will let you crop extraneous bits of the image, such as the white paper you used to color balance your image.
More sophisticated software packages such as Adobe Photoshop have functions that will let you adjust the perspective on an image that is not perfectly rectangular (indicating that the camera was off-center while shooting). This process does not distort the image; rather, it removes the distortion (foreshortening) created by the off-center camera position.
Make sure you save the original large image files from the camera so you will have them available for other purposes should you need them in the future. Saving them onto a CD will also give you a backup copy in case of hardware problems.
You are now ready to upload your jpeg images onto the TheArtGallerist.com website. Please remember that we can only accept photographs (jpeg images) that are of the highest quality.
The Content Manager is the tool used to upload images of your original fine art and the necessary descriptive information.
After ensuring that you have sized, titled and saved your images according to our requirements, you must upload them in order to have them posted on your webpage. In addition to uploading the jpeg image, it is very important that you do not forget to include in the description section the information we require in order to properly post your image. The required information includes the title of the artwork, dimensions in inches, weight in pounds, price, subject, style, and a brief description. The brief description can be any additional information you think important to note such as inspiration, type of materials and substrates used, print techniques, etc.
When uploading photographs, images can be sold by print size. To do this, simply choose the “Photography” category first, and then complete the rest of the New Item form. Doing so will allow you to create multiple print sizes and attach different prices for each print size. It is strongly recommended that you do not attempt to sell more than three different print sizes.
Within the Content Manager you can also select the order in which you would like your fine art images displayed on your scroll bar or on your product detail page. While in the Content Manager, select Reorder Products. From the list of uploaded products, simply click and drag each image into the position you would like them displayed. This allows you to group your art by series release, subject, best first, etc.