I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned lately about photographing your art to sell, say on FineArtAmerica.com. Since I’ve got a new shop there and I’ve been adding some art pieces lately it is fresh in my mind and I’ve made some boo boo’s along the way that might help or offer things you might not have thought of. Now, I’m not a professional photographer so of course with any free advice, you know what they say… you get what you pay for… haha   or how about opinions? they are like poop shoots, everybody’s got one. Here’s mine:

A few words about making your art.

Odd sizes: I found through trial and error that odd size paintings will not be printed as large on FAA. That means that your lovely customer will only be able to purchase up to a certain size of your fabulous artwork. That also means you’re out extra moolah cause it won’t print any bigger than said size.

Signing your work: Again, through trial and error I found that signing your artwork close to the edge of your piece is a mistake. See the photo above, my initials are right on the edge. Now when I was creating this piece 4 inches away from it, that seemed fine. Fine until I had to look at the photograph of it and straighten it and practically crop it off. No good. Sign your artwork at least an inch away if not more from all sides, I say.

Metallic ink and paint: They don’t photograph for shit. Enough said.

Taking your mugshot with your art: Wear makeup (see above) What was I thinking??

Don’t frame it: Do not frame your beloved piece of artwork before you photograph it. The glare will be bad and make it a nightmare to try to find a spot in your yard or house that won’t show your stupid ass in the glass.

If I figure out more stuff, I’ll edit this post, til then that’s it… go wild!

Ok, so now to the tutorial part of this post. Remember this scanner = no good. You need to photograph it.

So I’ve got my piece of art right here that I finished yesterday and I’m ready to sell that sucker! Screw Etsy and Artfire, I’ve found FAA (here’s my shop). I’ve made a sale too already which has pulled me out of my funk and spurred a little fire down below if you know what I mean. Of course I don’t know who bought the piece, it could’ve been one of you trying to keep me from falling into an abyss of self pity. If it was, thanks!! 😉

Here’s what I use:
my spiffy digital camera (set on the highest quality setting possible and in manual mode set for shade)
super cheap easel from Michaels for like $10 with 40% off coupon
chalkboard for backing, stolen from my son
stick or pencils to elevate artwork
sticky tack (miracle shit)
bright natural light from behind
luck and lots of shots

here’s that sticky tack aka miracle shit

First I set up my easel and use the square stick to elevate my artwork so the camera can get even the very bottom. I’ve used pencils, and blocks, anything to get my work out of that groove that is on the easel.

Then you need to have a backing that is sturdy, I’m using my son’s chalkboard but you could use whatever you have handy like foam core or cardboard or a big book (not thick). It doesn’t matter what color it is or how it looks cause you will crop it out completely at the end.

Next, you don’t want your artwork at an angle, that will make it out of square and then you’ll have to crop off quite a bit to make it square (or rectangle) and when I say out of square I mean the bottom will be wider than the top giving it a carnival glass look to it, it would be distorted got it? See image below.

So I’ve been working with wood to paint on lately so I don’t have to tape up my paper, but if I had paper I would use this sticky tack blue stuff to attach it to the board you have on your easel to hold up your art. It is better than tape, comes right down when you’re done and won’t hurt your art. I found mine at Home Depot in the adhesives aisle. If you’re like me and didn’t know about this stuff, you’ve got to try it. My son’s Kindergarten teacher uses it and my son knew about it before I did! It’s great stuff.

If you have to tape your paper artwork to the board, then you would need to stick something behind the board to try to make it as plumb as you can. Mine isn’t perfect in the picture but close enough. I didn’t have to crop much of anything off.

You want to have light behind your camera. I like the natural light best. I think direct sunlight might wash your colors out, but from what I’ve found online it’s a preference thing. I like bright shade best. You have to plan to photograph your art during the day or have really good lighting but you’ll probably still have to mess with it in your photo program.

So you’ve got the camera in front of your piece and you’re ready. I use a tri-pod for my camera so I don’t get a blurry image. You can get these really cheap at Walmart and the like. Get one. You’ll use it, I promise. I also set my camera to use the timer so I don’t get a blurry image or move the camera when I push the button. Figure out your camera people! It just takes a short time to see what kinda goodies are on there, it’s in the manual. If you lost yours, chances are you can download it from the manufacturers website.

I set my camera for the highest setting and I switch it to manual so I can put it in shade setting. Yours might not have a manual setting but I bet it has a setting for cloudy or shady. Use it. It allows the most light to come into the camera as possible for a better picture. You don’t need to understand it, just do it.

Take lots of photos. Move out of the way of the light coming from behind. If you need to, direct some light with something light like a white sheet on the floor. You don’t want shadows to appear on your flat image. If you have them, then you might not have enough light. Experiment, that is the best teacher.

Download your photos without taking down your make-shift studio if at all possible. Because you might have to go back and reshoot it! Use your absolute best shot and take it in to a program like Photoshop or similar. Even the basic ones have the tools to brighten, change the exposure (which will lighten up a dark photo) and add vibrance and saturation (which bumps up your colors). Mine has a blacks feature which is nice to add richness. Just don’t go hawg wild and make it look totally different from your original. Remember you are photographing this to 1) have a record of it in case it sells and 2) to sell as a print online.

Crop your photo to include the art only! No edges from anything else. It is better to take off a fraction of an inch off your artwork than to leave a bit on there that may show up as a border. Border = bad 🙁

One last piece of advice that I can think of is to name your photos so that search engines can understand what they are and also to take advantage of the adding your info to your photos. In Photoshop, I go to the File… File Info and it opens a box where I can add my name, website, tags and a description of the photo (or artwork). I’ve just started doing this so I hope it helps. There is even a place where you can add the copyright if you have copyrighted your piece. Pretty cool.

I hope this helps you even if just a little bit. I’ve just learned a few of these lessons myself the hard way a day ago. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll be glad to try and help.

Just showing the love people, just showing the love 😉

UpDate: I answered a few questions in the comments section.

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