Photo Documentation

Strong photo documentation skills are vital in the visual arts. More often than not an image of your work will be what you viewer will see, not the actual work. The ability to control that image to insure that it best represents your work is important.

You will need to control your lighting, the camera and the file/image size.

Lighting:

In any case you want to use diffuse light, direct light leads to “hotspots” on your images. I find natural lighting is best. You want to document your work early in the day, late in the evening or on a cloudy day.

Shadow-if-Bright

Indoor lighting is fine, just make sure you change your cameras settings to reflect the light you use and limit your lights sources to one type of light (i.e. don’t mix fluorescent and incandescent lights). Again you want your lighting to be diffuse so don’t point lights directly at your images.

Also avoid shadows across your work, irregular lighting can be very distracting and make it difficult to adjust your images later on.

Set up:

Most importantly set up so that the camera lens and image are parallel to each other. It is best to hang your work on a wall or lay it flat on the floor but if you can’t remember to tilt the camera slightly down to match the angle that the artwork is leaning – this will help minimize distortion of the original image.

Tilt-Camera

you don’t want to end up with images that look like this:

Distorted-HorizontalDistorted-Vertical

Also camera location is important. It is best to place your work a little further away from your work and “zoom” in. This minimizes the distortion created by the curvature of the lens that can make the edges of your work look curved (fish eye).

Fisheye-Distortion

No-Fisheye-Distortion

Remember to put a neutral background behind your work (black, white or grey). This will offset your work and also make cropping easier later on.

Always center your work on the screen. The image should fill up as much of your screen as possible.

A tripod can be a very useful tool in accomplishing the above goals.

Be willing to take as many pictures as necessary to get the best one. Your first shot will not be the best. Adjust your set up and lighting to grab that best image.

The Digital Image:

Once you have that best image run it through some editing software. Make necessary cropping to start then adjust your color and brightness. When adjusting color and brightness always match to your original image. Remember that image is what you are representing.

Here is a link to a Photo Documenting PDF put together by Accessible Arts that goes into far more technical details.

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