Documenting Your Art
Here’s the simplified process for selling art online:
1. Make great art.
2. Show it clearly (aka, take great photos).
Showing your work through clear documentation is critical for online sales for obvious reasons: your potential customers will have only your photos to inform them enough to make a purchase. If they’re uncertain of what they’re going to get, they’re less likely to buy. You want to illustrate without a doubt just how great your piece is, without giving any wrong impressions that might cause them to be disappointed when opening the package.
Please note, it is not necessary for you to purchase a new camera in order to create great images of your work. Almost everyone these days has access to a phone or digital camera that will produce perfectly sufficient images.
There are as many tips and tricks for documenting art work as there are mediums, and it would be wise to do further research if you have a uniquely challenging piece to document (ie high-gloss works or large-scale sculptures). But for the majority of 2D works, the following videos offer excellent advice:
For photographing high gloss works, check out one of these two videos:
For photographing 3D works, you may find this video useful:
You may also find this tutorial on creating a small lightbox for photographing 3D works helpful:
Put together your shot list.
When you’re documenting your work, it is worthwhile to get a few specific photos / angles for each piece:
- Tightly cropped, head on.
- In situ, with and without frame (depending on how your buyer is likely to display the work)
- Details, particularly when there is texture to show
- Sides and/or back (less important with works on paper)
- Showing scale (ie with some recognizable object for reference)
All photo examples are of a watercolour painting by the late Barbara S. Coan, taken with an iPhone 8.
There are more than a few issues that can come up while trying to document your own artwork. The following photos illustrate some of the most common.
Once you’ve captured some quality images, you may choose to do some light editing, or simply resize and upload tor the website.
Here’s a video on light editing:
There are many many options for editing software or apps, and any will serve your needs just fine. Here is a list of just a few options for free photo editing software:
It’s possible that you don’t need to edit your photo, but you do need to resize it for best use online. Here are a few free ways to resize a photo online:
If you're getting frustrated, running out of patience, or otherwise in need of a helping hand, it's also possible to hire a professional photographer to document your artwork. To get the most bang for your buck, put together a small collection of works you'd like documented. This can also be a good option if you want to create a limited edition of artist prints from one of your works, for which you'll need a high quality digital file. There are several great photographers in Golden, including:
In summary, here are a few tips:
- Clean the lens of your camera (including your phone!).
- Choose an uncluttered setting with good natural light, preferably with only neutral colours nearby. Outdoors can be a good option.
- Shoot in natural indirect light, avoid flash, avoid direct sunlight, avoid ‘mixed lighting’.
- Adjust exposure for very dark or very light pieces (not sure how to adjust exposure on your phone camera? This video might help).
- Set your 2D work on a flat neutral surface or hang it on a neutral wall (white, grey, or black). Orient your camera lens so that it is completely parallel to the artwork to avoid distortions.
- Shoot with a bit of space around the artwork, and then crop in while editing.
Suggested best practices for uploading to this site:
- Name your photo file in a consistent format, preferably with your last name and no spaces (ie Coan_OceanWatercolor3.jpg)
- Use an aspect ration of 3:4 when possible (or when that suits the shape of your artwork)
- Resize photos to around 500KB (the absolute maximum permitted is 1GB).
- Rotate (and save!) your image to the proper orientation, keeping in mind that some works are hard to decipher top from bottom by anyone other than the artist. THIS ONE IS MOST IMPORTANT, please rotate prior to upload.
Remember, your customers need to see great, high quality photos in order to feel like they’re making an informed purchase. Give your artwork the attention it deserves in the documentation stage. It’ll be worth the effort.