You’ve created a painting, print or drawing and you’d like to photograph it for your portfolio, before you send it to your eager client, or to the gallery owner for approval before you pack it up, but did you consider making prints of you work and selling those on ETSY?
5 Considerations That Complicate the Process of Photographing Fine Art for Reproduction
Photographing art for reproduction is a complex task that requires careful consideration to ensure accurate and high-quality results. Various factors can complicate this process, and understanding them is crucial for photographers and artists alike. Here are five considerations that add complexity to reproducing art through photography:
- Lighting: Capturing art in a way that accurately represents its colours, textures, and details requires controlled lighting conditions. Proper lighting setups, avoiding reflections, and minimizing shadows are vital for faithful reproduction.
How I deal with this: I have constructed special lighting equipment that allows me to eliminate most highlights. This setup is also ideal for photographing high-end watches, where you’re dealing with transparent and reflective surfaces stacked together that interact with light in the scene. The lights have to be arranged to illuminate any direct reflections and I then do a number of exposures. Later, I overlay these in photo processing software so I can show or hide different aspects of the surfaces I photograph.
- Colour Accuracy: Any artist will tell you: colour is complicated. It’s not just because we perceive colour through eyes that are constantly changing to make the best of current conditions, but also the different technology we use to capture and display images react differently to light than the original media. Translating the precise colours of an artwork into a digital photograph is challenging and in some cases, the best we can hope for is an acceptable approximation.
I have found: It’s best to think of a photograph of your artwork as a separate entity. It will be displayed differently if it is shown on an illuminated display. Different adjustments need to be made to translate the digital RGB image into CMYK colour for printing and even the choice of media can affect how we read the colours and details in an image.
There are several things I do to ensure that my photo is an acceptable approximation of the experience of your art. The most important is photographing in RAW and getting a good white balance (though even that is a moving target sometimes).
I will sit with you to do fine adjustments to balance colour, contrast and other factors, and I’ll maintain a digital copy for future adjustments.
- Texture and Dimensionality: Reproducing the physicality and texture of art, such as brushstrokes or surface irregularities, is demanding. Capturing fine details while preserving these features of the art requires judgement and control. It’s a delicate balance.
Whenever I photograph art, I invite the artist to collaborate. I feel it’s best to discuss the fact that this is a derivative work in another medium, not an exact copy, and since you’re the artist, your judgement has to be my guiding principle.
- Composition and Framing: Deciding on the ideal composition and framing to capture the essence of the artwork requires artistic judgment. Proper alignment, symmetry, and perspective are crucial in creating an accurate representation.
While certain lenses will introduce distortions, or different results at different distances to a piece, I use my best judgement in compensating and eliminating unwanted perspective, especially in photographing flat paintings.
- Reflections and Glare: The presence of glass or glossy surfaces in art, such as frames or varnish, can introduce unwanted reflections and glare. At times, different parts of a piece can have variations in glossy or matt surfaces, I always discuss the artist’s intent when planning to capture photographs of a piece. Skilful lighting and careful positioning are necessary to make the most of this aspect of art.
In conclusion, photographing art for reproduction is a complex process that demands attention to detail involving lighting, colour accuracy, texture, composition, and reflections. By understanding and addressing these considerations, I create faithful reproductions that capture the true essence and beauty of the original artwork.
As a professional photographer with some years of experience, I know the strengths and limitations of my process, and I’m always looking to improve. Your feedback helps me realise your vision and improve my offering.
Dirk Jonker is your friendly, Real Happy Pictures photographer. He believes in kindness and equality and works well with animals, children and the elderly. He is patient, kind and generous with his time and attention.
“I’m a visual thinker and I enjoy making images. I draw, paint and make prints, among other things. My other interests include acting, music and fitness. You can find me here on social media: