Present Your Artwork Professionally
How to set your digital camera to photograph art
Don’t think that just because you capture your image as a JPEG, it’s ready for digital jurying. New out of the box the digital camera is set for auto everything and not even the highest quality JPEG. You need to change your settings before photographing your artwork. These are the instructions that should come with every new camera when you need high quality images of your artwork. I found this course in photography to be very useful.
Purchase and use a tripod
Let me repeat. Always use a tripod click here for a great one at a great price. For the highest quality photographs with any camera, always use a tripod to steady the camera. If you’re using a DSLR and/or lens with built in image stabilization, or even a point and shoot camera with image stabilization, always turn the stabilization off when mounting the camera on a tripod.
Set the ISO to the lowest setting
By default, the ISO is set to Auto which lets it fluctuate between the lowest and highest setting depending on the amount of available light. Lower ISO is higher quality with less digital noise. This is equivalent to ASA film speed where ASA 25 or 100 speed film is higher quality than ASA 400 speed film because higher ASA films have more grain. Digital noise is equivalent to grain. The less noise the cleaner the image.
Set the camera to capture the most pixels
This won’t be an option if you shoot TIF or RAW because those setting will always use the most pixels available. But it’s really important if you shoot JPEG because you’ll need all the information the camera is capable of capturing. Forget what that sale person told you when you mentioned needing JPEGs. Web or social media sized JPEG images are too small for jurying. Additionally, the JPEG setting in most digital cameras offers you a choice of compression quality. Always choose the setting that gives you the highest quality with the least amount of compression. It’s usually called Fine JPEG. If you don’t have enough room on your memory card, purchase a larger capacity card. Memory is cheap and you shouldn’t let it dictate the quality of the images you produce.
Never use the digital zoom
All consumer digital cameras have an extended digital zoom range. If you can’t get close enough with the built in optical zoom, move your tripod. The digital zoom interpolates in camera and is not as good as cropping (and enlarging) in an editing program like Photoshop or Elements. To insure this never happens, permanently turn off the digital zoom in the set up menu. You should try and keep the optical zoom in the middle of the zoom range when photographing your art because there will be less distortion caused by lens aberrations.
Fill the frame as much as possible with your art so you end up using more of the available pixels. If your artwork is horizontal, position the camera horizontally. If your artwork is vertical, position the camera vertically. Use the most amount of image area you can in the long pixel dimensions. I recommend composing using 80% to 90% of the image area so it can be cropped in a visually pleasing way.
Turn off the flash
Shooting artwork with the built-in flash is ugly, causing hot spot reflections and too much contrast. Better to shoot without the flash and use window light with a reflector to illuminate the art, or shoot outdoors under your white canopy for even illumination.
To get more accurate color, set your white balance to match your light source. That will insure that the whites in your artwork show up as white in your digital files, which will let all the other colors fall into line. This is a difficult concept to grasp. I would suggest trying auto white balance first because sometimes, it’s good enough.
(Smart phone cameras do not allow modifying ISO or exposure. I do not recommend using them for art.)
Importing the images to the computer
There are two ways to import the images to the computer. The first is to use the cable that came with your camera. The second is to purchase a card reader that plugs into the USB port on your computer. Take the memory card out of the camera and insert it into the card reader. In both methods, the camera sees it as a hard drive and opens a window for you to copy or move the images. Or, if you have software on the computer that’s determined to manage your images, it moves the images for you.
This image is a good example of the quality you need for jurying purposes. Sharp, true to color.
How to get those images into your computer.
I have never connected a camera directly to the computer. I always use a card reader. Before copying the images I create a destination folder. I never use software to move the images from the card to the computer, always manually copying them to the prepared folder using the computer’s operating system. I always COPY and check to make sure they’ve moved before deleting the images from the memory card.
All this being said, the camera I use is a little Nikon Coolpix. I love it; it’s never let me down so long as I take the time to set it right. Here are some other very highly rated cameras: Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5; Canon EOS M5 and Sony Alpha a6500.
And now, what about Photo Editing Software?
Personally, I use Citrix Zoner18, which came included on my new Dell computer. It's not so technical that a novice can't learn to use it quickly to get the Pro version there is a $14 charge. Here are some other brands that are all in the $100 range:
Now go and set up that tripod, get your work set up, and take some killer photos!