We have seen bunches or articles about how to photograph artwork ... it takes, patience, practice, the right equipment, and know how to do it very well. We've been at it for close to a decade now and had to learn mostly through trial and error, but now have a methodology that works nicely. And still we learn, there are always challenges.
Artists out there, yes, you can photograph your own artwork ... but if you really need it right on, don't forget that there are professionals like us that are ready to help you. Spend your time wisely.
So ... what do you as an artist need to know about bringing in your artwork for professional photography? There are things that you can do to help us do the best job possible for you.
First of all for all artists, please plan to bring your artwork to our photography studio (unless it is too big to travel easily). We can provide the very best setup in our space and that means the best results for you! We will take care of your precious artwork, that is part of what we are expected to do and it takes time and care to get the perfect photos. If you don't have a vehicle to carry it, ask about pick up and delivery.
We know how it exciting it is to finish a piece ... you want to get it ready to show. But if you think you want a professional photograph ... stop right when it is done and get it to us. Please don't varnish oils until after they are photographed. Please don't frame anything, and especially don't put your artwork under glass. Those of us that do this often know how to treat your work gently and with care, even when it is vulnerable and unprotected. If you want to mount it, that is fine, but leave the top mats off. Put your flat work in portfolios, wrap canvases gently in cloth or plastic for the trip to and from the studio.
Photos have a lot of detail, but they will not be at the same level as a flatbed scan (which is most often used for giclees) because the lens has distance from the artwork. If you are wanting to do fine art prints to sell, we have had great results from photos going down in size from the original, but always recommend going to a giclee print house if you want the same or larger sized than the original.
It gets trickier to provide advice here because each media is so different ... please be sure to ask your photographer what you can do to help get the best photos. Think about what type of setting you would like ... do you want a light or dark background or should the piece dictate? Will we need stands or other props? We really appreciate when all artwork comes to us clean and well protected. It helps if fibers are unwrinkled from folding and we have instruction on how to safely smooth the type of fiber. Metals and woods should be polished, if needed. For glass, ceramics, and pottery, you may want to mark the best side with a piece of tape. Whatever you can do to help get it ready for its very best presentation will go a long way.
We like to send proof sets to artists before we bring back the artwork, just to be sure that they are happy with the results. Don't be afraid to say something, if you feel it needs to be adjusted. It's amazing, we all have a different way of looking at the same piece of art ... but this is for your portfolio, so it should match your sense of the piece.
When you are happy with the results, you should get your pieces back along with the images on CD. We always provide two sets ... one set of full size .tif files and one set of web size .jpgs. This will allow you to make good prints or use them on a website or in emails without file manipulations.
Not all photographers do this type of work or can do it well ... ask around amongst your artist friends or at art groups or at galleries for whom they would recommend. Be wary of using anyone without experience ... it sounds easy and they may offer a low price, but trust us, it can be more challenging than you think and you want great results when you are paying for it.
PS - To our fellow photographers, if you are inexperienced, please be sure get help from someone who is ... this can be more challenging to do than you would guess. Work for an artist friend at first, who will be understanding as you get the process down ... we thought lunch out was great payment for our first artist portfolio assignment ;0).