photographing artwork for a website


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Mar 4, 2003
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
I'll preface this by saying that, at best, I'm a crappy photographer, :( and I'm at the point where, if no solution presents itself I will, very shortly, be looking to hire a professional, but:

I need to get some really good quality photos of several of my pieces of artwork for a web site. I already have images on my own site; these shots are mediocre, at best, but are of sufficient quality for my customers who are familiar with both the look and quality of the work. However, these new shots will be for someone else's on-line, specialty gallery. These ones have to be good, as they must represent the work to an unfamiliar audience. :confused:

The artwork is a a combination of original, hand-pulled serigraphy and embossed etching. As such, one of several problems I've encountered is that, in order to show the embossing, the light source must come in at an angle to cast shadows. This tends to make one side of the paper brighter than the other. I've tried shooting indoors with lighting, outdoors in overcast conditions, and outdoors with additional, supplimentary lighting - no luck. I've used both my own (decent) SLR camera, and a borrowed (decent) digital camera; the latter produced the (somewhat) better results. :rolleyes:

Lighting may, in fact, not be my worst enemy in this. Cheapness and the reluctance to pay a pro may be ("may"? ... ha ha!). However, EVERY time I suggest the latter course, some kind soul tells me how easy it is to "do-it-yourself". Then they proceed to show me the spectacular images that they, themselves, have "whipped up", with tremedous facility, on line. :eek:

Any assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated, oh fellow grumblinos. To this end, I've (just now) added my web site to my profile, for anyone morbidly interested in exactly how lousy a photographer one can be.

Thank you, in advance! ;)

p.s. I still love these little graemlins! :D
With all due respect, if you want them to look good, you do need to hire a photographer. A good professional photographer has years of experience and training the equipment to photograph you art work properly so it looks it's best. This is definitely a case where you will get what you pay for. The type of art you are trying to photograph is tricky to get good results with unless you have absolute control of the light source. When looking for a professional, make sure you check credentials and references. There are many people who claim to be professionals just because they own a camera. :eek:
After you get the good photos, the software and operator for processing to the web will be just as important. Getting both in one would be even better. Good luck.
I'd suggest borrowing someone's digital camera (if you don't have one already!) and taking a lot of photos in all different sorts of lighting, then loading them onto the computer and seeing which ones work and which ones don't.
I'll second AnneL's comments. We hire a local photographer to do all that work for us when we need it. In our case, we schedule it all on a Monday when we are normally closed and have a few select customers to show up to be included in photos at the design counter.

We also provide a "shot list" to the photographer a couple of weeks in advance. It sure seems to make things go much more efficiently. We hire the photographer at her hourly rate, film and developing were charged at cost and upon payment of the invoice, the copyright to all negatives & images was documented to us so that we could pick and choose as much as we wanted, as many as we wanted.

The latest shooting also was very convenient for us to update our family portraits at the same time. All the required tools of the trade were already setup in the store.
Photos of artwork for the web:

For me, more or Less, the key to good quality digital pictures for the web, as long as they are in focus and the lighting is decent, is a good editing software. I use Photoshop. The software can quickly correct almost any lighting and color problem.

One of my artists, emails digital images for me to review and use for my website all the time.

A trick we both use is to set the art against black foam in the best daylight available.

If you ever plan on reproducing your work, or you have a need for slides or a transparency, hire a professional.

One other note: I've had no luck getting good quality digital images by scanning photos on my flat bed scanner. For the web, a good digital camera is the way to go.

[ 05-02-2003, 12:48 AM: Message edited by: lessafinger ]
Have you considered copyright issues? If you are reproducing published prints, you might be in hot water if you use them without permission.

If these are commercial prints, the publishers may already have .jpg or .tif files available for download. Check with them first to see if they have them (to save you a bit of money) and if you can use them for your promotion without charge.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, Bill, but didn't printmaker say that he was using his own work??

Quote from printmaker:

I need to get some really good quality photos of several of my pieces of artwork for a web site.

I agree with Anne on hiring a good professional photographer.

(Hmmm, something similar to hiring a good professtional framer when you need the best quality for a specific use.)

Printmaker, I know exactly what you mean about showing texture. This is something I grapple with myself, and I think there are two issues at play here.

1) Light. You need even light, but with a bit of a raking element. This may call for 3 lights -two at 45 degrees for the even light (one on either side of the art) and then a third at the side set at a sharper angle to the art, to give you the texture rake. The light will be uneven, so you have to average your exposure -take a grey card reading at either side of the art, and then average. Bracket the exposure (maybe 1/2 stop either way) to cover your bases.

Another way to do this is to have one light at the 45 degree, and the other at the sharp raking angle. Again, you need to average your grey card readings and bracket.

2) Close-ups show texture better. It's hard to show texture on long shots. You may just have to have detail shots to show the texture. This will give you fewer lighting problems.

Diffused light is more even, and hence shows texture less. You may want to mix diffused and undiffused light. You'll need to experiment to get the system down, but once you do, it's easy to recreate the same set up each time you want to take new photos.

I don't know digital cameras at all, so can't speak to that issue. I do know that for the best results you need to use good film. I use Velvia professional slide film. Then, for the web I have them scanned onto a disk and give them to someone else to tinker with.

We all have to chose where we want to spend our time and energy. I have to take before and after slides of all my work so I have to be reasonably competent with that kind of photography. My photos of people stink. I also have no patience for tinkering with the end results on the computer so gladly pay someone else to do that.

Hope this helps.

I don't need pictures for a website, although I have added a web address to my yellow pages ad, so I better get on it. :eek: My problem is I am trying to sell prematted vintage images on Ebay. I took thirty shots here in the store, thought I had good light and went home and uploaded images and they are unusable. You couldn't tell what color the mats are and honestly there was no deatial for the images themselves. I have posted pics here and they seem good enough. I am trying a different camera since mine was unfortunately dropped, but it was taking good pics up to this point.

Obviously, it wouldn't be worth it for me to have a pro do it, because I am simply trying to make a buck on Ebay. I have a big plan that these vintage images are going to sell like jellyfish and put me on easystreet.

[ 05-02-2003, 01:28 PM: Message edited by: emibub ]
Rebecca's on the right track, but sometimes you even have to add some reflectors to get it just right. I've seen commercial photographers use little tiny reflectors to highlight just the right spot. That's why you are probably best hiring a professional photographer that specializes in commercial work. They would know exactly what lights and reflectors to use to make the piece look it's best. And each piece may require a different setup.

As far as copyright goes, if you hire a pro, they generally will ask what you intend to use the photos for and a usage fee will be built into their quote. The photographer would still retain the rights to the photos, but you would have an agreement with them to use them for specific purposes. Just make sure you ask permission if you decide to use them for anything else, they may require an additional fee which is usually much cheaper than getting sued for copyright infringement.

[ 05-02-2003, 03:27 PM: Message edited by: AnneL ]
Please correct me if I'm wrong, Bill, but didn't printmaker say that he was using his own work??
Well, ... ahh, ... yeah, I guess he did!

Sorry, that's what I get for trying to read a 9 point font with 50 year old eyes.

As Rosanne Rosannadana used to say on SNL, " Never mind!"
Thank you all!

There are, indeed, a few ideas I have yet to try. However, I suspect that when the smoke finally clears, I will have to find a pro... :confused:

My concern is not with the cost; it's the knowledge that (as was already alluded to) approximately
50% of the "professional" photographers out there are in the bottom half of their field. :D

Hopefully, we will find one of the good ones :cool: ; after all, as it was pointed out, this is my own artwork about which we speak! :rolleyes:
I use a Nikon 8008, 3.5 megapixel digital with Photoshop Elements software, one of the least expensive of the photoshop group. I get excellent results, altho I haven't put the images on the website yet.

I don't believe copyright issues are involved only because I'm PROMOTING the images on my site, not selling them off the site. Honestly, I'd think any publisher would enjoy the advertising. I do, though, intend to list artist and publisher under the images, just so I do err on the side of correctness.

Hey, if anypublisher complains, I'll take it off my site
Yeah I love this little graemlin
I too am a terrible photographer. I run over 100 ebay auctions a week and about half are scanned, half are photographed. I also do photographs for my web sites.

My problems mostly involve lighting. In the past some pictures were over or under exposed and some had yellow or pinkish tints to them. I find that software can resolve all of these problems so now I don't waste a lot of time trying to get the picture right. I take the photos and correct them with software. You don't need expensive software to do this. I have the high end packages like Adobe and Fireworks but use PhotoImpact ($90.00) for all my editing.

My setup to do this is relatively inexpensive too. The most expensive part is my Nikon Coolpix 995 (about $400). My physical setup includes a small backdrop area that I made from 4 cheap canvases. I took a 24x28 canvas for the back and hinged 18x24 canvases on each end for an 'U' shaped booth and set in on another 24x28 canvas and set the whole backdrop on a table at tripod height. I left the backdrop white. When photographing something like clear glass I use a couple of deep blue mats in the backdrop. For lighting I use two clipon 500W halogen workshop lights on the top of each side facing down and have a 1000W halogen light mounted on the wall above the booth for when I need lighting from above. If I need more lighting I have a portable 1000W halogen workshop light on a stand. This provides me with decent lighting. One thing I learned is that you need to turn off any incandescent or flouresenct lighting in the room as the camera gets confused by the different types of lighting. I used to use just incandescent lighting but found that it gave my picures a pinkish tint. My camera is mounted on a tripod. The 995 has so many types of settings that I get confused trying to figure them out. I don't get good picture on automatic so after much playing around, I leave my camera on f3.5 at 1/15th second exposure. I use software afterwards to correct the picture. Usually all I have to do is make small adjustments to the brightness and contrast and occasional changes to the Color Balance. For web and eBay pictures, I shoot all at 1024x768 and crop afterwards. For eBay I reduce all portrait pictures to 550 pixels wide and all landscape pictures to 800 pixels wide. I also use a 128M CompactFlash card and have a card reader on my PC ($15) so I can leave the camera in place.

I normally have about 150 picture to take for each week's auctions. It takes me about 3-4 hours (or less) each week to take all the pictures, edit them and upload them. Perhaps later I will look more at professional lighting equipment but the research I have done so far has left me more confused as most of the literature I've seen assumes that the reader already knows what they are looking for. I have found one good website for digital photography ( which has a number of forums on a lot of different topics. Like many forums on many sites, they expect you to do the research before asking newbie questions.