A Simple Guide to Photographing Your Paintings by Jeanne Bessette

Because of my previous life as a photographer, I am often asked how to photograph your paintings. I can't stress enough how important good images of your work is. You spend endless hours creating beautiful paintings and if you follow a few simple steps, it will make all the difference in your presentation to the world. You will get into more shows and you will look like a professional.
But first I want to make a small list of things not to do.
1. Do not take pictures of your work lying down on the floor with your feet in the bottom of the image.
2. Do not ask your spouse to hold the painting for you so he or she can also be in the picture.
3. Do not frame the image so it will look nice in the picture.
4. Mostly, do not put the camera on a timer and step into the picture to create a self portrait unless of course you need an image of yourself.
These may sound like silly examples of what not to do but believe me they happen.

There are several reasons we need photographs of our work and each situation warrants a different approach. For today, I am going to address low resolution images for your website and email applications. This of course starts with a relatively good quality digital camera. You can use any point and shoot for this as long as it has at least 4 mega pixels. I find the lower quality cameras just don't cut the mustard. You will also need a computer and a way to upload your images. I use Picassa because it is quick and pretty idiot proof.
A good quality, sturdy tripod is a must. Do not underestimate the need for a tripod. It keeps your camera steady and allows you to perfectly align the painting in the viewfinder, which is essential.

Most digital cameras have more than one setting for resolution. I like to shoot my paintings in the higher resolution (1600X1200 or more) in case I decide to use an online postcard company or send my image off for advertising. You can always lower the resolution on the computer for your website and emails.

Now that you are more familiar with what you need, here are the steps that I use for actually photographing the image.

1. I shoot all my paintings outside on a sunny day. I shoot either midmorning or mid afternoon and put the sun at a 45 degree angle behind me. So in photographer's terms, I have a giant light box of warm light spilling onto my subject. If it is a cloudy day, you will get a blue cast on your painting and good luck getting the blue out later.
2. I have created a black velvet back drop. I have glued the black velvet to a large piece of plywood. (Black velvet is pure black and absorbs light.) And I hang my painting on a nail. Ultimately, I crop to the exact edges of the painting once I upload it. But if I have a square painting and I do not want to crop to the edges, the black background will fall away to the viewer and the painting will "pop."
3. I set up my camera on the tripod and make sure that the camera is exactly perpendicular to the painting and the height is exactly in the middle of the painting's height. Double check all edges to make sure you are square and fill the view finder as much as possible with the painting. Check for hot spots or glare from the sun and adjust the painting if necessary. It is better to photograph your paintings before the final coat of varnish to help with glare, but I have photographed all my paintings after varnish with success and adjustments.
4. Set your camera on point and shoot or if you feel savvy, set it on fstop 60. Shoot more than one image.
5. Upload your images to your computer. Keep good files of your work and don't forget to create backups often.
These simple steps will help elevate your photographs to a place that you can feel confident in shooting your own images.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at
See you in the studio!!!


Devil & Angel

The Fountain Marcel Duchamp 1917

Prompt: Is this Art?

JOE DiGIULIO: One can argue about the entry of Duchamp's "The Fountain" into a 1917 exhibition as to whether it should be considered Art. As a 3 dimensional sculptor, I have always sought for the harmony between form and function and within this criteria, I would have to say "No" it is not considered as such due to it not being functional in its state within a museum setting.
By turning the piece on it side, The Fountain, has resembled the imagery of a sitting Buddha or a veiled Madonna figure with its sweeping downward curves. From that standpoint I would consider it as Art. So that's one for and one against. I would also, and most importantly, consider whether the piece elicits a response from the observer. Although the Fountain was hidden from view in the exhibition one would have to believe that the public response to the piece's inclusion would have been one of shock. With this in mind, I would contend that YES it is Art in the fact that it caused an emotional response from the observer. Whether good or bad, if the observer is emotionally drawn to the piece, then it is a successful piece of Art. Found art or fabricated from the artist's hand, when displayed within the museum setting the final work stands to be observed and judged by the eye of the beholder. It is from there that beauty is conceived.

SHARON DiGIULIO: NO! This is not art. This is some crazy person's attempt to get a reaction from the art community. I believe Duchamp was using this as a futile attempt to cause a stir. Now, sometimes the art community needs a little stir, but this urinal is more of a disaster in my opinion. Picking something up out of the trash or purchasing someone else's creation (or design or manufactured item) and calling it your own or calling it art is ridiculous! I do, however, believe that when you do use "found objects" in an art piece, you can call it your own when you alter or manipulate it or incorporate other items with it and present it in a new way or tell a story, that it does eventually become art. But when you have a urinal and sign the manufacturer's name to it and submit it for public display, that's a little weird in my opinion.

WINTER STREAM Project Lesson in Oils by Wilson Bickford

I thought I'd share some insights as to my thought processes and techniques with this painting.
This was created just recently and I took step-by-step photos along the way to highlight certain points. Although this is considered an Oil painting, I did start with some Acrylic gessos for the underpainting; a blue-gray for the snow and black for the stream. The idea is to let the underpainting show through to influence the top layer of Oil Colors.

Photo #1 - The blue and black Acrylics were applied using a disposable foam brush (hardware -store variety). When that was completely dry, I scrubbed a thin coat of LIQUIN Winsor & Newton Oil Color Medium over the entire canvas to ease the application of the Oils and to facilitate blending. Any clear Oil medium would suffice.

Photo #2 - Using a Fan brush, I used small amounts of Van Dyke Brown, Burnt Sienna, Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to scrub in a "mottled" suggestion of deep woods. I purposely kept the bottom area darker to help convey the feeling of deeper shadows in the undergrowth. Notice that I did not cover up all of the Acrylic undertone and it is peeking through here and there. the Oils were applied very thinly and scrubbed in.

Photo #3 - Tree trunks were added using Van Dyke Brown on a 3/8" Flat brush. Evergreen branches were rendered with a Fan brush and varying mixtures of Sap Green, Ultramarine Blues and Van Dyke Brown. Snow on the branches was indicated with Blue and White on the Fan brush, ultimately building to pure Titanium White for the lightest highlights which were placed more centrally on the canvas.

Photo #4 - Using my background Blues, Greens and Browns, I painted the reflection colors into the water. This was with the Flat brush. Note that the brightest glow in the water is nearer the center as it will be an important part of the focal point, or "center of interest." I used Titanium White for this area. I also started defining the snow shadows and lay of the land at this phase, again saving the pure whites for the middle area of the canvas.

Photo #5 - More snow highlights and some grasses poking through were added. I used the Browns on the Fan brush for the grass stubble, then added more definition (especially nearer the foreground) using a Script Liner. As an adjustment, I brightened the glint of light in the water using more Titanium White, which I felt gave it some extra oomph. Lastly, I used some of my Blues and White on the Script Liner to create the snow-covered rocks in the stream.

There you have it! Although there are many different ways to execute a painting, this is an approach I use quite often. By using the Acrylic underneath, I find that I can use less paint over-all in the Oil stage, which keeps me from getting bogged down on a slippery, thick canvas.
I choose my underpainting colors according to my subject. For example, I might use a Yellow or a Red for a sunset scene. Give it a try!

Great Deals

Back To Class online: up to 85% off with online exclusive sales

Products To Consider

FREE Video Art Lessons

Learning Art The Easy and Simple Way with Jerry's Artarama FREE Video Art Lessons


Facebook Fans

Recent Comments

Comment RSS