How to photograph your work

To be in with the very best chance of your work being selected for our exhibition you must provide good quality images of your work. Here are our beginners guide to photographing your work to get good results.

Positioning Your Artwork

Prop or place your artwork in an upright position on a table against a neutral background such as a white wall or large piece of paper. Aim to get a soft even natural sunlight across the whole work by placing your work near a window or outdoors on a bright but overcast day. Harsh lighting will cast strong shadows and electric lighting may affect the colour of your work so try to avoid these. Also, look out for reflections on glass or other shiny surfaces (more on colour and reflections below).

If your work is not on a stretcher, in a frame or supported in some other way, and needs to lean against a wall, fix it to a temporary backing for the purposes of the photograph, or try placing it on the floor and shooting it from overhead (this will only work for small works).

Positioning Your Camera

It is vital that you are able to keep your camera steady in order to ensure that your image is sharp, so place your camera on a tripod or flat surface.

If you are able, use the self-timer on your camera to avoid camera shake when pressing the button.

If your camera is on a tripod, make sure that you turn off the image stabilisation/vibration reduction (if you have this function), as it will reduce the sharpness of your image.

Make sure that your camera is tilted to match the angle of your work (is parallel to it), to ensure that the shape of the piece is not distorted and that the centre of your lens is directly in line with the centre of the work. Some cameras have a grid overlay on the LCD screen that will help you with this.

To maximise the resolution of the image, only leave a small space around the outside of your artwork, just enough to allow for cropping out the background later.

Focusing Your Camera Lens
Most cameras offer an ‘autofocus’ option and this should be sufficient, however, if you are having difficulties getting the image in focus you may need to switch to ‘manual focus’.

It’s best not to use a wide-angle lens, as this may make the edges of the artwork appear curved or distorted.

If you are using an SLR or compact camera, zoom in tight to your artwork then focus, but if you are taking your photo using a mobile phone or digital tablet do not use the zoom function, as this will reduce the quality of your image. Instead, move your camera closer to the artwork.

If you have this option on your camera, put your ISO to it’s lowest setting (50, 100 or 200 depending on your camera model).

Correct Colour Balance and Unwanted Reflections
As you are using natural light, make sure any electric lights are turned off, as they will affect the tones in your work. Turn off the built-in flash and change your camera to the daylight if available.

If your artwork is framed under glass you may be best to remove it from the frame for the photograph to avoid reflections. However, if this is not possible, a polarising filter over your lens will help to reduce reflections.

Taking Several Shots, Including Different Angles, Close Up Details and Scale Information
You can to add three images of each work (up to six for installation, film, performance and large-scale work, though some of these might include sketches of proposed work or images of past works) so take several shots, including the full artwork (from several angles if three-dimensional), the full artwork with a recognisable object beside it to help the selectors envisage scale, and close up details. Keep checking them so that you can make adjustments to lighting, angles, reflections or focus if needs be. Check that all images are sharp and as true as possible to your artwork.

Before dismantling your setup and putting away your camera, check your photographs on your computer screen, as you may spot flaws that you could not see on the camera screen.

Scanning Your Small Work
It may be possible to use a scanner to copy your artwork to the computer, rather than having to photograph it, if your work is small enough with little or no surface texture and you have access to a good quality scanner.

Preparing Your Photograph For Upload
Download your images to your computer hard-drive and use photo-editing software to crop the artwork from the background. There are free photo editing packages such as Google Photos (Windows) and iPhoto (Mac). Zoom in and inspect the image for flaws. You may want to boost the contrast to bring out the details of your artwork, but do not over edit your image as you want it to be a true representation of your work.

Resizing your image for submission

Image files should be JPG or PNG and no more than 5MB large. Upload time will depend on your internet connection speed so please be patient. If you are having problems uploading your images please use image editing software to resize your image to approximately 1600 pixels wide and then save as a new file. Image file names should not be too long and should not contain any invalid characters such as ‘ ” & % * ( ) < > / \ ~ # + =

Save your image files with your name and the title of your artwork as the file name, eg, JoeBloggs_Untitled1.jpg

Do check that all images are sharp and as true as possible to your artwork.

Once you are ready, log in to the online submission website and upload your images.