Good photographs are important, since once a painting is varnished, framed and sold, all you have is the memory! You also have the copyright, however it is hard to track down a painting after it’s sold to ask the owner to let you take a photo. Ideally even then, it would be best to take it out of it’s frame to avoid shadows from the frame. No, best to have good photographs as soon as the painting is complete. Assume every painting is the one that is going to go viral, make you a celebrity and that the copyright alone will be the cornerstone to your fortune. Take your photographs on that basis. Sadly for most artists, that outcome very rarely happens, but all of us should still click away, hoping!
So, take a good photograph of paintings immediately they are finished, but before the final varnish, or before being framed under glass. This is important to avoid reflections in the photograph.
Photograph in an outdoor setting
When photographing paintings, I find it is best to use an outdoor setting with full sun or a bright day with high, light cloud. Photograph at around mid morning since that avoids the yellow tint of early morning light. The other advantage of photography at mid morning is that the sun will be at approximately 45 degrees to the painting. Thus any reflections will be less visible. The painting needs to be level, and perfectly upright, otherwise the image will be out of square. I solve these problems by photographing on a frame hung on a wall that faces north (in the southern hemisphere.)
Photograph with a good camera
Invest in a good camera, one with some controls. (Don’t forget – this photo will be the key to your whole future!) Learn how to set the ISO (film speed in old language.) Preferably set the ISO to 100, and if photographing on a bright day, the camera will sort out the rest. Take several shots, including some where you adjust the exposure by -1/3. Ideally the camera should also be able to give you Raw files. In an ideal world, the camera would be best on a tripod, but with a steady hand, the light on a bright day will give a crisp image.
Photograph with a grey card
Invest in a grey card of some kind, my paintings are all photographed beside Kodak Q13 cards. Those cards are not cheap – but remember these photos are going to be worth it! It is particularly important to use a grey card, since the grey card has almost magical properties when applied to the photography of paintings. That will be the subject of my next post.
My next exhibition of paintings will be held at the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane institute of Art, from 27th August to the 8th September, 2021.
Contact Christine for an invitation to my next show!