Photographing Your Artwork & Simple Edit Tricks for Posting Online

 
Before and After. Photo taken using Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and edits done via the VSCO app

Before and After. Photo taken using Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and edits done via the VSCO app

 

Do you wish your art looked as beautiful in photos as it does in person? Or perhaps you have no clue how to edit your pics?

Why edit your photos at all?

Often your artwork may look dull or not as clear in the photo as it does in person, which is why editing apps are so handy - so we can quickly raise the brightness and adjust the white balance, maybe play around with saturation too, to get our artwork looking more like how it does in real life.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to take beautiful photos of your art, just your phone will do! What you can also do is apply some simple photography techniques and editing tricks to enhance your photos to perform their best when posting online. The idea is to represent your art as best as possible without over-editing your images. Small changes often make the biggest impact!

The top 5 things to consider are:

  • Lighting & Angles

  • Colouring

  • Styling

  • Filters

  • Trends vs Branding

The app I use for most of my photo editing is VSCO which is free to use - you can also pay for membership and get a huge range of filters for just $19.99 USD per year, which I think is worth it for how often you may be using it. This is not a sponsored post, by the way, just a huge fan of the app and it’s functionalities!

Let’s dive straight into the first and most important consideration of all:

LIGHTING & ANGLES

The best light to photograph your art is in natural light. Setting up next to window will provide a huge flooding of even and soft light - a cloudy day with indirect light is ideal for even light coverage as the clouds work as a light diffuser for that soft and bright lighting.

If you draw specifically using graphite pencils, you will need to make sure the light is on a ~45-90 degree angle. Graphite is shiny so if you photograph directly above your artwork, it will look dull due to light reflecting off the pencil work. Generally laying your artwork flat and working next to a window should be fine as the angle will naturally be from the side, but it’s handy to keep in mind that to combat reflection, angle your light source. If you’re working with non-reflective mediums like watercolour, gouache or colour pencils, then a light source directly above is fine too.

Now when we compare natural lighting to a lamp or wall lights, the difference is usually about colouring and brightness. Natural light offers broader and brighter coverage than what any lamp or wall light can provide - which means when you use the latter, you may see a vignette effect, meaning the edges of your photo are dark because the light tapers out around the artwork. This isn’t a great look if you’re aiming for a well-lit and fresh image.

Since you’ve made sure that the lighting is ideal before you take the photo, you won’t need to brighten up your photo too much afterwards. If you still need to adjusting your photo’s brightness via your phone however, raise the exposure only a slightly bit. Overexposed pictures tend to wash out detail and shading in your work which is what you want to avoid! There are other ways to make your artwork pop, like increasing contrast.

NOTE: If you dig the effect of abstract shadows in photos then direct sunlight is what you want, BUT just keep in mind that you will need to do some extra tricky editing because whatever is covered in shadows will likely be too dark to see, so usually there’s a bit of contrast adjustment to lighten those areas up. Don’t be fooled by the pics you see online, they always require a little more editing than evenly-lit pics!

Be mindful of lighting. Morning light provides a cool bluish tone
and afternoon light is more of a warm yellowish tone.

COLOURING

If you’re photographing using natural light, it’s important to note that morning light is cool and afternoon light is warm. Morning light provides a cool bluish tone and afternoon light is more of a warm yellowish tone. You may want to consider this when it comes to the colouring of your artwork and/or branding. For the sake of consistency, it’s best to stick with a cool or warm tone to your images as a mix of the too will break that consistency in your photos when posting them side by side on social media or website for example.

You can adjust the tone of your image in most photo editing apps, in VSCO in particular you can do this in the ‘white balance’ editor by moving the sliders. Adjust the temperature to a cooler tone by sliding the bar towards the left (adding blue), or add a warmer tone by sliding the bar towards the right (adding yellow). Play around with what looks best to you and experiment with tint colouring as well, which is the bar underneath temperature.

Photographing your artwork is the perfect opportunity to tell a story
about you as the creator and the process behind your work.

STYLING

Photographing your artwork is the perfect opportunity to tell a story about you as the creator and the process behind your work. It’s great to add variation to the way you display your work, with close up photos of details, ‘in progress’ shots with art supplies in-shot and pictures of the artwork on its own. I personally like to take my photos from a top-down angle or slightly above and add elements in the photo that fit with my neutral colour palette (or whatever colours I am using at the time!).

Less is more in this case, no need to overcrowd your picture because the artwork is the star of the show, but have fun with styling your images and don’t be afraid to show your artwork half-finished! People enjoy seeing the process behind your finished artworks.

 
Before and After using the VSCO app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Before and After using the VSCO app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8

 

FILTERS

Filters are useful for maintaining consistency in your images and making some quick edits on the go, especially if you’re not a photographer and just want your pics to have a more refined look. VSCO is great for editing photos as it’s easy to use and they have a pretty great range of filters. My fave set of filters are the AL series, I tend to stick to just one of them for a solid period of time (partly because I’m liking it at the time and partly because I’m too lazy to sift through for a new one).

I tend to lean towards filters that only offer a subtle style, some filters are heavily edited so the simpler the filter the better, as I prefer the art in the photo to look just like the original.

You also have the choice of selecting a filter at 100% opacity, or you can tone down the filters effects if you prefer.

TRENDS VS BRANDING

The main reason I started using VSCO to filter my images is because I was keen to use the grain feature. I am aaaaalll about the grainy photo right now because I love how natural and earth it makes my photos look. I don’t know how long I will enjoy this style but it is one of those trends that is subtle enough and works super well with the tone, branding and style of my illustration work (@vanessavanderhaven). Keep in mind that trends come and go, and whilst it’s tempting to go gangbusters with a trending filter or edit style, make sure it’s something that works with your brand and is transitional enough for the direction you wish to take your art brand/style in the future!