I recently discovered a true literary treasure while waiting for my order to be filled at a local print shop. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is a great little book about artistic development and the right to “steal art.” Now don’t go getting excited about walking out of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa! The book talks about copying inspiring works and, through that process, understanding the perspective of the artists that you are emulating (the latter being the most important piece of the process). As a result of that, and that again, and that again, a personal perspective can flourish. There are also many other thoughtful gems in this book … but I will leave that for your to discover. Check it out (and visit www.austinkleon.com for even more fun stuff).
Here is my answer to this week’s Daily Post photo challenge. The challenge was to post something vibrant, so I decided to share this photo of bicycles I found lined up in Nashville, Tennessee. I have an older post that talks about my trip into the city the day I captured these, so feel free to check that out here. If you want to read more about the photo challenge and get involved, which I highly encourage, you can access that here.
I do love being creative…obviously, right? However, one thing that has continuously frustrated me (until recently) is how to properly photograph and style artwork so that it will sell online! I started out sticking artwork in my flowerpots and taking photos there. Cute as it was, it really didn’t provide a sense of how a piece of art would look in someone’s home. Next, I tried laying it on my wooden porch and then the brick hearth of my fireplace, which provided a nice backdrop, but again only appealed to those special few people who like to scatter art on their porch or around the fireplace. Know anyone like that? I didn’t think so. Throughout all of this, I was utilizing natural sunlight…either directly or through a window. Sometimes this produced decent effects, but it also had a tendency to produce a dull effect on some pieces. Gasp…our best friend, natural light, had turned its back on me! What to do…what to do? Well, through quite a bit of trial and error, reading many articles on Pinterest, and submitting my online etsy shop to some lovely members of the Shop Critiques Team who were kind enough to lend expertise, I think I have found some solutions! Hopefully they will help you as well, with art photography and perhaps other product showcasing. I will mention that I am shooting photos with an older model Samsung Galaxy smartphone (8 megapixel), so no fancy camera equipment is required, although it never hurts!
So, here is what I have utilized in the latest shoots and the effects it had. I like framing my art, so I keep a frame handy with matting and backing just for staging. I take the glass out of the frame, which both reduces glare and allows me to move the painting around from the front to position it! I do not tape paintings down for photographing, as the mat/backing hold the pieces in place well and I can, as a result, change artwork around quickly.
I set things up on my kitchen island, because it’s near a large bay widow (hello brightness!). Even though natural light and I have had our differences, I still want to maintain a partnership with it. The wood grain looks great and could represent a shelf, dresser or other surface where my art might land. As a backdrop, I use a plain white piece of foamboard, propped up against the back of the kitchen island:
Artwork photo shoot
Now onto lighting, which is SUPER important and can make/break a shot. I utilize two utility clamp lights with 100 watt daylight bulbs. They have to be daylight, as other bulbs will cast a yellow tint on your work. If you want to see what these guys add, consider the fact that the shot of my frame was done only in daylight, with no extra lighting! See what I mean?
I position these in such a manner as to cut down on harsh shadows and create an even lighting effect on the scene. I would encourage you to play with things and see what makes your product look its best! Some shadows may be intriguing in certain circumstances, so move things around, take a look through the camera, and make necessary adjustments. For me, a light above and to the side creates a lovely effect.
Once lighting is placed where I want it, I add my framed art and props to the scene. I usually stick to three items of different sizes, to create some interest. It’s best to find pieces that complement, but don’t take away from, your art (plants and candles are great…I’m loving those cute little succulent planters)! If the piece is big enough, a wall shot with great lighting can be very impactful also. If you sell smaller pieces, like I do, grouping items together can encourage a bigger sale (thanks again, etsy critique team, for that great tip and the following one). If you need some styling inspiration or suggestions, try visiting styleathome.com! Grab some popcorn and a soda…you may be there for a while.
Next, you just have to snap some great photos. Here are some tips to help ensure your shots come out well:
Ensure you have maximized your camera settings. When shooting in daylight, I will often set the white balance to daylight and use the auto contrast feature on my phone (this may vary with your equipment, so play around and see what looks best). The ISO setting almost always stays on 100, as this creates the whitest whites.
Use a tripod! A steady camera will produce better detail and a clearer picture!
Get in close. The less cropping you have to do, the better, so try to capture a shot that will greatly reduce or even eliminate the need to crop your photos!
Touch Up. Even the best shots could use a bit of touching up, so clean up your photos utilizing a photo editor. If you are using your phone, I recommend Pixlr…lots of features and a great price (that would be free)! I usually just adjust brightness and contrast, but still make sure the finished photo looks as close to the original artwork as possible.
Here’s what a shot looks like taken with my current set up:
Notice the lack of planters and fireplaces! I would call that a win! For more tips on selling art, feel free to check out my Pinterest collection on selling art here!