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In this article, you will find some important tips for photographing works of art. You can use them to photograph paintings, prints, drawings, textiles, etc.

How to photograph a work of art
Pay attention to the teip auxiliary lines at an angle of 45 degrees and perpendicular to the wall, which help when setting up the camera and lighting

Camera selection and settings

A fixed-lens digital SLR is the best choice. But compact cameras with manual control, and even an upscale smartphone, are also useful.

Some very important camera settings

Turn off digital zoom
If your camera has digital zoom, the first thing to do is turn it off. Digital zoom enlarges a portion of the image in the camera, resulting in lower image quality and noise. The ideal focal length setting for photographing medium-sized artworks is 80 or 100 mm.

Stick to ISO 100.
For sharpness, select the lowest ISO, usually 100, and never use auto-tuning. A higher value, such as 1600, is great for shooting in low light, but gives grain.

Use Adobe RGB as your working color space
Adobe RGB is capable of reproducing more colors than sRGB. This is especially useful if you plan to use your photo in print. You can always convert the file later to sRGB color space for use on the Internet.

Converting from sRGB to Adobe RGB in a graphics editor is not the same as shooting Adobe RGB. Computer programs can only interpolate from existing information.

What file quality should you use
Choose the best quality file format, even if it seems a lot bigger than your current requirements. If your camera can shoot in RAW format, you will get better sharpness and tonal range. But the RAW format requires additional processing at the editing stage. If you are not sure, try setting the quality to RAW PLUS LARGE JPG.

How to photograph a work of art
RAW vs high quality jpg

TIFF is also a useful quality format. The camera software will automatically process the TIFF file. It will not compress and resize it, as in JPG.

Set the saturation settings to neutral
Saturation settings, if available on your camera, should be set to normal or neutral. This will accurately display the colors in your work. Later in the graphics editor you can apply more saturation and contrast.

How to photograph a work of art
Image style or camera saturation settings

White balance and color management
Most digital cameras have a white balance (WB) control on the camera body or in the menu. You shoot a neutral white or gray object, and a custom white balance setting compensates for any color cast.

How to photograph a work of art
Image before (yellow tint) and after using custom white balance

A standard lighting installation for photographing a painting uses two identical light sources located at an angle of 45 degrees on each side in front of the painting. Both light sources must match in power and be at the same distance from the center of the image. This provides uniform light without a shadow – one light destroys the shadows cast by another light.

Such an installation requires a rather large room to remove light sources away from the picture and avoid glare in the picture. If it doesn’t come out to move the light sources, use a lens with a longer focal length (80-100 mm). This moves the camera away from the subject and helps eliminate glare.

If the picture is behind the glass, you can eliminate reflections using black material located around the camera lens or a ring flash.

How to photograph a work of art
Standard lighting scheme for shooting a picture

Try not to mix light sources – when shooting indoors with artificial lighting, block the light from the windows, when using natural lighting, turn off all room lights.

How to photograph a work of art

Hang a painting or other flat work of art on a wall of neutral white, gray, or black. Placing the object vertically will facilitate its evenly balanced lighting. Use the level to check the verticality of the image, then adjust the camera so that the height of the lens matches the center of the picture.

Here you need a strong tripod to get clear photos and precise image alignment. To eliminate any camera movement, use the cable lock, mirror lock setting, or self-timer.

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