How to Take Great Art Photos

By Tamer Ghoneim
Translation by Diane Rioux

Do you find it hard to get quality pictures that show the life and vibrance of your work?

Our goal in this article is to give you some simple tips for taking amazing pictures of your work.

We’ll start with the most important consideration…

Light

Have you ever noticed that the quality of your photos is always worse at night or in a dark environment? They’re often grainy, not sharp, and the colors and contrast are less clear and vivid. 

Think of your camera (whether it’s a phone or an expensive DSLR) as a “light-collecting,” rather than a picture-making, device. It will consistently take pictures in areas with plenty of light – especially soft, diffuse light like on a cloudy day. 

The idea that your camera works best on a cloudy day rather than a bright, sunny one may surprise you, but cameras don’t perform as well when there’s a big difference in the brightness of a scene (like in the afternoon on a sunny, cloudless day).

So, the first recommendation is to find the best light you can to take your photo. 

Pro Tips:

  • Photograph your art in a well-lit area with diffuse light, if possible. Slide a table close to a window or group of windows in your home and capture the shot there. 
  • You can still get good photos on a bright, sunny day by taking pictures outside in the shade or using curtains to diffuse the light.  
  • If you have a budget, there are many great artificial lighting options available such as large soft boxes.

Stability

Another vital element to getting crisp, quality images is keeping your camera stable. If you have to hold your camera by hand, try leaning against a wall or rest your arm on a nearby surface. 

Also, when you tap the shutter button, hold for a moment while the camera takes the photo rather than moving it away instantly.

Mounting the camera on a tripod or a similar device is the best way to stabilize.

Pro Tip: If you use a tripod, use a timer or shutter delay to prevent movement when you touch or press the button.

Purpose

Always consider the end use of the photo when taking it. Are you taking a picture to make art prints, for social media, publishing, etc.? Set up your photo with the end use in mind.

For example, if you plan to create art prints, the goal is to capture the highest quality image of the art itself. If you’re planning to share the photos online or on social media, it may be beneficial to include other elements – like art supplies or unique objects that add interest.

Editing

Editing can dramatically enhance and stylize images. There are some great mobile apps like VSCO and Snapseed or professional tools like Adobe Lightroom that allow you to apply manual adjustments and filter effects to improve your images. 

Pro Tip: Boosting brightness, contrast, and saturation can give your images a bold and colorful look. Decreasing these settings will produce a more faded, moody appearance. 

Image 01: Studio lighting setup for a mobile phone using softboxes for lighting and a tripod for stability
Image 02: Direct image of artwork to be used for creating professional art prints
Image 03: Image of artwork to be used for social media or other online content

Tamer Ghoneim is a professional calligraphy artist and instructor, specializing in blackletter/gothic calligraphy styles, including modern interpretations and abstract designs. Based in Houston, Texas, his goal is to encourage people of all ages and skill levels to learn the rewarding art of blackletter calligraphy.