Thursday, August 3, 2017

Photographing Paintings

Here is my unscientific, nontechnical way to take photos of your acrylic paintings! Feel free to comment with the more technical ways :)
I've read about those technical ways, and I somehow still can't figure it all out! So over the years I've done lots of trial and error, and this is what I come up with... It's not perfect, but works well enough for my needs...
I use a fairly good camera, but not really pricey. Its a Canon PowerShot SX20. I liked it because it has a lot of zoom on it. You can do all the manual adjustments, but I don't know how and just use the auto setting.
So here is what I do:
  • Photograph before you put on any final glossy finish. Glare is a big problem to overcome with acrylics. Even outside in open shade I get glare
  • No flash (just more glare, washed out color)
  • Use a tripod and the delayed setting on the camera. I use 10 second delay. Don't move a muscle until it goes off. This is important because I shoot in the lowest light I can to avoid glare, so you can't have any wiggle at all.
  • I set my painting on my easel - raise it up above the lip of the easel with  a piece of wood under the canvas. Set against an interior wall as straight up as I can without it falling over. Choose a wall that gets no direct light at all.
  • I just use my overhead daylight fluorescent lighting that is in my studio.
  • Place your tripod far enough away that you can zoom in just a bit - otherwise the edges of the canvas will look rounded. The whole setup is usually pretty low to the ground - this seems to help with light coming in from any windows.
  • Adjust the angle of the camera to get the sides as straight, and bottom and top of the canvas as horizontal as you can.
  • Put a piece of white paper behind the painting - but still in the frame so the camera can see it. This helps the camera with the color A LOT but it also helps later when you are adjusting in photoshop. You can use it to correct the "color cast"
  • Experiment with your camera settings, but I find the "landscape" setting gives me the best results.
  • Use your 10 second delay and shoot!
I know this is a total workaround. But I am the workaround queen. :)
The adjusting I need to do in Photoshop elements is usually just to:
  • increase the contrast
  • correct the color cast - using the white paper as the spot to click on. Some area of the white will usually bring the colors close to the original
That's usually all I have to do to be pretty close!


  1. And that is sufficient to make prints? Any modifications to the process for size (8X10 vs 18X24 for example)? What process do you use to make prints? Postcards?

  2. Mike I have made prints and cards at home using this method. I've also sent them in to Vista Print and had posters, cards and other merchandise made and been happy with the results. I also sell prints and canvas prints on Fine Art America and Red Bubble using these photos and have never had a problem with them.

    As far as different sizes, my camera takes a pretty high resolution photo, so they work for fairly large prints.

  3. I also keep my monitor colour-balanced. Otherwise it may look fine with Photoshop but prints might demonstrate a colour shift.

    Keep the original adjusted file as the "master" for that canvas. Open a copy for making different format print or changing the resolution. For example, if the original is saved as "Onions", a copy file formatted to 8x10 could be saved as "Onions8x10" Each time you open and manipulate a digital image, it loses a bit of quality; just the nature of the game. By keeping the master file pure, the manipulated copies will have the maximum possible quality.

    1. Thanks Charles! Always a font of helpful info!