Photographing a painting makes it possible to look back on it and appreciate its beauty time and time again. To get the perfect shot, either remove the painting from its frame or frame it against a plain backdrop manually in your viewfinder. Then, set up your camera on a tripod directly in front of the painting and adjust its settings to ensure that the image comes through as true-to-life as possible. When you're ready to snap your photo, set a timer to make sure the camera stays perfectly still. If you know your way around a photo editor, you can even touch up your pictures afterwards to optimize them for viewing or display.
Method 1 of 3:Setting up Your Shot
1Take the painting out of its frame if it's covered in glass or perspex. Use the tip of a screwdriver or a pair of pliers to pry out the screws fastening the edges of the canvas to the backside of the frame, then gently separate the painting and frame by hand. Reflective framing components could easily end up producing a distracting glare in your finished photo. As a result, the subtle colors and fine details in your painting will be harder to see.
If your painting is being held in its frame by adjustable tabs, bend or slide them out of the way before pulling out the board backing, followed by the painting itself.
It's also a good idea to remove any surrounding matting to keep it from casting a shadow around the edges of the painting.
2Mount pieces you own on a blank wall before photographing them. Once you have the painting out of its frame, place a small strip of masking tape over each corner and stick it to an open, undecorated section of the wall. If you don't like the idea of putting tape on your painting, you can also secure it to the wall or a separate cork board using thumbtacks or tacky putty. Get the piece as straight and level as you can—this will simplify the framing process later on.
If mounting your painting on the wall isn't an option, another thing you can do is set a large piece of white board or cardstock onto an easel and position the painting in front of it.
A blank backdrop will highlight the painting as the central focus of the photograph.
Tip: For maximum precision, use a bubble level to make sure that your painting is lined up correctly.
3Place your camera on a tripod to stabilize it. If you're working with a traditional photography camera, set it on a tripod adjusted to match the height of the painting's center point. Double-check that the camera is seated securely, then engage the locking lever or twist the tightening knob on the head of the tripod to attach it. A fixed stand will steady the camera.
If you don't have a tripod, you could also use an appropriately-sized table, countertop, or other flat, sturdy object as a makeshift platform for a photography camera.
These days, many manufacturers make tripods designed specifically for smartphones.
Using a tripod is one of the best ways to ensure a quality image, as photos often lose a bit of resolution when taken by hand due to the slight movement it creates.
4Position your camera so that the painting fills most of the viewfinder. Start with your camera zeroed-in on the middle of the painting and gradually pull it back to take in more and more of the piece. Ideally, the painting should take up roughly 90% of the frame by the time it's entirely visible.
Avoid leaving too much blank space in the frame around the painting. Doing so will constrain the size of the painting in the photo, ultimately lowering its resolution.
You may need to rotate your camera 90 degrees in order to fit in all of a tall portrait-style painting.
Method 2 of 3:Finding the Right Lighting Conditions
1Take your photo indoors near a window on a cloudy day. If possible, schedule your shoot for a time near the middle of the day to avoid the shadows created by the low light in the evenings and mornings. Overcast conditions reduce atmospheric glare and provide even, natural lighting, which is ideal for photographing works of art done in traditional mediums.
While it's generally preferable to photograph paintings using natural light, you may not have a choice if you're at a museum, art gallery, or other setting where you have no control over the light conditions.
Warning: Never shoot a painting in direct sunlight unless you have no other choice. Not only will bright sunlight cause your camera to capture the piece's colors inaccurately, it's also bad for the painting itself.
2Light paintings from below when your atmospheric lighting is inconsistent. Anytime you're shooting in a windowless room, or in an area with natural lighting that's a bit too bright, switch on the ceiling lights, then place LED lights at floor level on either side of the painting. Position your accessory lights so that they point up towards the piece at a 45-degree angle. Evening out overly-bright lighting from below will neutralize overhead glare as much as possible.
Be careful not to situate your floor lights too close to the painting itself. The closer they are, the more likely they are to cause glare.
You can buy single LED lights designed specifically for displaying art online for as little as $30-40 apiece.
3Turn off your camera's flash. Push down the pop-up flash mechanism just above the viewfinder until it clicks. Then, rotate the mode dial beside the shutter release button to the no-flash automatic setting to prevent it from popping up when you snap your shot. If you're using a smartphone, you can turn off the flash through your camera settings menu, or by tapping on the lightning bolt icon in the corner of the camera app until it reads Off” or a line appears through it.
Like direct sunlight and other overly-bright illumination, the flash can cause colors to come out overexposed and throw off the lighting and contrast of the piece.
Ignore any warnings your camera gives you about low-light conditions. This is one situation where it's better to trust your eye than your lens.
4Change your camera's ISO level to 100. Press the “ISO” button in your camera's main settings repeatedly to cycle through different levels. ISO level essentially determines how light-sensitive the camera's image sensor is for a given shot. An ISO of around 100 is ordinarily most appropriate for photographs taken in studio conditions or in indoors areas with diffuse natural light.
Generally speaking, higher ISO levels are useful for brightening up photos taken in low light, while low ISO levels maximize clarity and detail in photos taken in naturally bright conditions.
Play around with different ISO levels to find the one that works best for the light conditions in the room you're in. The resulting image should accurately represent that way your painting looks in real life.
Tapping the screen of your smartphone near the focal point of the painting will automatically set the camera to the best ISO level while also narrowing the field of focus.
Method 3 of 3:Optimizing Your Image
1Set your camera to auto-focus. Hunt for the auto-focus function in your camera's settings menu or mode dial and make sure it's set to “On.” This will allow the camera to automatically select the best depth of focus for your shot and subject, which helps to avoid fuzzy pictures. Auto-focus is one of your camera' most useful features when it comes to getting a clear, fuzz-free image.
On most smartphones, the auto-focus function will be enabled automatically when you open your camera app.
2Choose an aperture setting of f8 or higher to get clear photos in natural light. To change the aperture setting on your camera, twist the finger wheel alongside the shutter button while looking through the viewfinder or at the pull-out screen. As you turn the wheel, the displayed aperture setting number will change. The higher the aperture setting, the smaller the depth of focus, which translates to a crisp, detailed image. This is ideal when you're using whatever diffuse, natural light is available.hhttps://www.howtogeek.com/277375/get-out-of-auto-how-to-use-your-cameras-shooting-modes-for-better-photos/
It may be necessary to put your camera in manual operation mode in order to alter the aperture setting. You can usually do this by rotating the mode dial to the “M” position.
To fine-focus a smartphone camera, tap the screen near the center of focal point of the painting. This has an effect similar to raising the aperture setting on a photography camera.
3Set your white balance to the “Cloudy” mode. If you've managed to find an overcast day with soft, flattering light to photograph your painting, simply locate the preset white balances in your camera's settings menu and choose the one labelled “Cloudy.” If you're shooting in a museum, gallery, or another venue with artificial light, go with the “Studio” or “Indoor” option instead to make sure the colors in your photo are balanced according to the amount of light present.
The white balance affects the overall color temperature of the image. If it's set incorrectly, your photo may turn out with an unnatural blue or orange tint.
Smartphone cameras automatically adjust the white balance to a level that looks best for a particular subject and framing.
4Use a timer to take your photo to make sure the shot is perfectly still. The motion of pressing the shutter button can be enough to disrupt your framing or create an ever-so-slight blur. To guarantee the highest image quality possible, it's best to put the shutter on a self-timer rather than hitting it yourself. That way, the camera will snap the photo all by itself after the specified time, and you'll save yourself the frustration of having to reset everything.
On most DSLR cameras, you can access the self-timer feature through the camera's general settings, shutter settings, or touch-screen display.
Tip: Set your timer for a minimum of 3-5 seconds to give the camera plenty of time to stop shaking after you take your hands off of it.
5Touch up your finished photo with a photo editor program. Don't worry if you're not satisfied with the way your photo came out—you can continue tinkering with it afterwards in editing. A good photo editor will allow you to crop the edges of your image, alter the brightness and contrast, adjust the color saturation, reduce glare and grain, and make other small tweaks to bring out the true essence of the original artwork.
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Affinity Photo, and Capture One Pro are among the most powerful and highly-rated commercial photo editors. If you're looking for a free alternative, GIMP, Fotor, and Pixlr are also good choices.
Watching or reading tutorials online can help you learn your way your photo editor of choice quickly. Many programs have a somewhat steep learning curve, which can make them a little tricky to figure out on your own.