Photographing your art work – Part 2: Lighting 2D

To see information about photography equipment, check out my previous post, Photographing Art – On the Cheap.
The diagram below shows how I set up lights to photograph art.  You will need two lights.  Mount the art to wall.  Tape it or hang it.
Angle the lights so that the brightest part is not directly on the work.  Pointing the light directly on the work can cause hot spots and glare.  However, if you are using continuous lights, you will want to angle the light more towards your work to maximize the brightness.
Alternatively, if I have a lot of work to photograph, I will set it up on a panel leaned up against a block or paint can.  This way I can lay work down flat, and just shoot the camera, without having to re-tape every piece or adjust the lighting or focus with every shot.
  • Make sure the camera is perpendicular to the art work. Otherwise, your image can become trapezoidal due to foreshortening, with the nearest edge being wider than the back edge.
  • Crop your images. Remove the background, torn paper edges.
  • Avoid ambient light. Photograph at night or in a completely closed room. The most common mistake I see in artists photographing their work is doing so in daylight.
If you have tips and recommendations for photographing your work, please leave a comment below.
Coming up next: Photographing 3D Art


2 thoughts on “Photographing your art work – Part 2: Lighting 2D”

  1. Hi Jay – I just discovered your blog after your posting on the USK-Portland Symposium blog. I look forward to meeting you there!

    Regarding lighting, I’ve tried many times to photograph my sketches indoors with a variety of setups, and I’ve never been satisfied. I find that bright, direct sunlight does the trick. Obviously, this is a limiting factor when the sun isn’t shining (and I lived in Eugene for 11 years, so I know what it’s like there) … but with bright sunlight I’m always happy with the results. Way better than scanning, for watercolors anyway. But your posts here might make me give the indoor setup another try. Thanks very much for posting, see you in Portland!

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