If you are an artist who wants to create a portfolio including high quality copies of your work, taking photographs of your pieces will often be the best solution. You may also want to do this for insurance reasons, or as an alternative to scanning so you can create reproductions of your work.
It often works out a lot cheaper for artists to invest in good quality camera equipment and take on the task themselves rather than hiring a professional to do the job, and this also allows for greater flexibility. If you want to take this route, you will need to follow these steps and consider several factors.
1) Camera quality
Firstly, this approach will only work if you’re willing to invest in a good quality SLR camera. A digital model (DSLR) will be the easiest and most effective option for the majority of users, especially artists who are not professional photographers. Film cameras are a good alternative for more traditional artists, but only then you know exactly what you’re doing.
2) Zoom distance
If your camera lens has the ability to zoom in a greater distance when you stand further away from the subject, this will be better for taking pictures of artwork because it minimises the fish-eye effect and makes the photo appear more flat.
If you want to use natural lighting it is perfectly acceptable to shoot your artwork outside or using sunlight from a clear window. Artificial light may be more reliable but you will have to invest in a good quality, pure white light to get good results. Don’t use the flash on your camera because it is likely to create inconsistent lighting and will often be too bright for this purpose.
4) Image sharpness
When taking photographs of art, sharpness is a high priority. You will be able to get good results on a typical Canon or Nikon DSLR, but only more expensive lenses will get great results that completely minimise graininess or softness in your images. If you need to step up the photo quality then you will have to consider investing in a premium lens, assuming you are already doing everything you can with stability and good lighting.
5) Shooting angle
It is vital that you aim to get your artwork completely flat and in the centre of the shot, while keeping your camera completely stable. The ideal way to do this is hanging your artwork on a black velvet background and using a tripod to take the picture.
Post-production will usually be necessary to get the best results. Usually you will need to crop your image to the right shape and size at the very least. In the area you plan to crop out, place a ruler and a contrast scale (starting with a white square and going through tones of grey to black). These will then be in your photo when you come to the editing stage which makes it easier to judge scale, brightness and contrast accurately.