6 Tips To Photograph Paintings to Take Prints

6 Tips To Photograph Paintings to Take Prints

30 people want to hang the original painting, but there is only one available. How do you satisfy them all? Clearly, by printing copies!

If you want to use a scanner, you could do so. In the case of a large painting or one made of glitter and gold, acrylic and texture, how to deal with that? You need photography to do just that.

If you are interested in digitizing your paintings, photography is the best method.

In order to digitize artworks for prints, you need a Professional DSLR camera and a lens, so here is our handy guide on how to photograph artworks for prints (ensuring your prints are accurate reproductions)! 

Why take a picture of your artwork instead of Scanning It?

painting photos art photograph
painting photos art photograph

Here is a question that is frequently asked before we begin:

Photographs of paintings are no longer necessary now that scanners are available. Aren’t scanners what you use to capture images of paintings? 

The answer is yes and no. 

Scanners are used to scan your documents. 

There are, however, limitations to scanners, and that is why you should photograph your masterpiece rather than scan it. The reasons are as follows:

1. Some scanning devices may have trouble scanning certain media accurately

Scanning textures such as paint globs or stretched canvas can be difficult due to their textured nature. The scanner operates best when the surface is completely flat.

All of that texture can be preserved through photography. 

Usually this type of painting is very difficult to scan because of its texture.

2. There is just no such thing as a good consumer-grade scanner

The small details that can make a big difference may not be captured by a standard (i.e., reasonably priced) scanner. Whereas high-resolution cameras are capable of capturing even the tiniest of details!

Scanners can lead to the loss of many important details.

3. There are some works of art that simply cannot be scanned

In the case of very large paintings (generally anything larger than A2 or A3 size), you may find yourself in a bind. In spite of the fact that it is possible to scan fragments of your painting and stitch them all together in Adobe Photoshop, that would require a great deal of time and effort from you.

A more straightforward solution is photography.  There may be certain paintings that are too large to be scanned (easily).

Having established the advantages of photography over scanning, let’s move on to the next part of this article, which will provide some tips for photographing paintings for prints.

Tips to Photograph Paintings for Printing

1. Ensure that the right gear and settings are used

Photography equipments
Photography equipments

The tools you use in your work have an impact on your work, most artists agree. Photographers cannot ignore the fact that the camera and lens they use can significantly alter the quality of the pictures they take. Grab a camera with lots of megapixels and a lens with no (or minimal) optical distortion if you want to digitize paintings. 

DSLR and mirrorless models, smartphones, and point-and-shoot cameras are among the many types of cameras available. In order to fit interchangeable lenses on your DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will need one of those. In the case of cameras that will be used only to take pictures of your paintings, it’s really only important to pay attention to one spec: the megapixel count

Minimum requirement for a camera is 12 megapixels. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a camera that can consistently deliver, look for models with 24 MP or more.

It is equally important to have the right photography equipment as it is to have the right paintbrush.

When looking for lenses, select lenses ranging between 35mm and 70mm in length, which are closest to the field of view of the human eye. If you are only planning on digitizing photos, just pick a 50mm lens. However, if you plan to record extremely large pictures with your lens, you might want to consider a 35mm lens.

I will give you a quick run-through of what you should do to set up the ideal camera: 

  • If you want a shallow depth of field, keep your aperture narrow. Keep everything sharp and make sure nothing is out of focus. You should use an aperture of f/9 for optimum results. If your photo is blurry in some areas, try f/11.
  • If you are using an ISO setting, it is best to keep it as low as possible to avoid noise. Noise really messes with a painting’s texture. The ISO range you should use is 100-300.
  • Depending on the exposure you wish to achieve, you can adjust the shutter speed. Then again, don’t make it so slow that even the slightest breeze will result in motion blur. 1/60s seems like a good starting point. 
  • Choose Single Shot, One Shot or AF-S (they are all essentially the same, but the name varies depending on the brand of your camera). 
  • Using RAW mode will give you the best results. Using this method, you will be able to adjust the colors and exposure of your photograph in post-processing.
  • The Adobe RGB color space is recommended.

2. There’s nothing more important than lighting 

light in long exposure photography

In order to successfully photograph paintings, it is important to have nice, even lighting throughout the painting; one section should not be darker than another.

The belief that you should position one light directly in front of your work is a common misconception. The result won’t be even lighting and may cause your rendering to be distorted.

Placing two lights opposite each other will make the artwork look more interesting. Orient the lights at a 45-degree angle relative to the artwork. It keeps the illumination even from edge to edge because the light will meet in the middle! This prevents glaring shadows and bright highlights while keeping the overall appearance balanced.

Lighting is important as well; choose continuous lights or flash and strobes (both are effective), but don’t forget to diffuse the light; diffusers mean that the light is evenly dispersed rather than a spotlit effect.

Diffusing light is made easier with softboxes like these.

You might be tempted to use natural light if you do not own any flashes, considering how gorgeous the colors can be. It is unfortunate, however, that unless you are shooting during very specific times of day and with the right weather, you will experience many problems.

When it comes to photographing colors, natural light can pose a problem.

An excessive amount of glare may occur when the sun is too high. There will be yellow hues throughout the scene if it’s evening. The scene will seem too dark and dreary if you’re in the shade. Ideally, you should digitize your paintings when the weather is overcast, but you don’t want to always be at the mercy of the elements.

Hence, it is best to use studio lights when taking photographs.

3. Make sure your artwork and camera are properly positioned

Painting on a canvas

Positioning your painting correctly can make all the difference. 

Certainly, you should hang the painting on a wall if you are able to. However, it is also possible to put the painting on an easel. If you want your photos to be absolutely straight, you will need a tripod to achieve this (this is best done on a tripod). 

Make sure the camera is always parallel to the painting’s surface whether you hang the painting on the wall or use an easel.

Place the painting on the wall, not the floor, so that it can be lit effectively. You should also ensure that the painting is straight. However, the most important thing to remember is to make sure that your camera is perfectly centered and parallel to your painting at all times! 

The perspective and angles are all wonky and unfixable if you fail to position your camera correctly.

4. Don’t let reflections get you down!

reflections in photography

The reflective properties of certain painting mediums tend to make them difficult to use. Reflections can look beautiful in person, but they can be your worst nightmare when trying to photograph them. Does this solution sound good to you? Then consider investing in polarized filters. 

Filters that reduce reflections and glare are generally attached to the front of your lens element. It is especially important to use polarizing filters for acrylic painting photography if you plan to shoot the artwork. 

Over the more popular circular polarizer, grab a linear polarizing filter instead. Round polarizers can leave you painting with reflections around the edges. 

5. Use a neutral gray card and a display that has been calibrated for printing

A painting’s colors are everything – so how can you be sure you’ve captured them correctly?

The first card you should use is neutral gray. Once you have a calibrated screen, preview the photos. If you want an accurate print of your painting, color is everything.

Gray cards resemble the paint samples you’d find at a home improvement store, which are squares that are covered in gray. This tool allows you to adjust your white balance for your photographs based on a baseline!

As long as you have a photograph taken during that session that shows some of the gray card, you are good to go for all the photos you take during that shoot. 

Colors appear in a variety of ways on computer monitors with regard to calibration. An image might appear yellow on a mobile device rather than a computer screen, or vice versa. This is a major problem when you’re trying to create an accurate print, which is why calibration is so important.

Print calibration involves calibrating a monitor’s display to show colors as close to the way they would appear when printed. There are also several monitor calibration tools you can use to ensure that the print calibration is perfect. 

Finally, I would like to bring up…

6. Make some post-processing adjustments 

post processing adjustments in photos

It is really up to you to decide what kind of post-processing you want to apply to your painting photograph. With post-processing, the aim is to bring out the original colors to the greatest extent possible;, this way, the painting’s authenticity is preserved.

When working with colors, Adobe Lightroom is an excellent choice, as it has panel sliders that allow you to adjust them.

Before you make color adjustments, make sure you have adjusted the color space.

You should take a moment to consider your export options before sending a file to print. In default settings, digital camera resolution is 72 DPI, so printing may not produce the correct colors. To do color correction, make sure your color space is Adobe RGB (change this before attempting it) and increase your DPI to the maximum resolution your printer can handle. 

Final Words

As difficult or complex as it might sound, photographing paintings for prints is quite simple. Having the right gear, correctly adjusted to the right settings, coupled with good lighting and a good position – this is a surefire recipe for success. You’ll be able to create beautiful reproduction prints from your artwork with a few tweaks in an editing program to show off your artwork to its full potential. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell me what the best print resolution is?

At a minimum, professional printers should have a resolution of 300 dots per inch.

Which gallery should you go to if you want your paintings printed?

For high-quality prints, you may print from home if you have a professional printer, but if you don’t own a professional printer, you should go to a professional print lab. I would recommend avoiding consumer markets like Walmart and CVS, and instead investing in prestigious testing labs such as Miller’s. With printers that are not correctly formatted, consumer market labs often produce inaccurate results in colors.

Would you recommend a particular type of paper for getting your artwork printed?

It is possible to print paintings on almost any type of paper, depending on how you want the final product to look. A glossy paper is an excellent option for posters. The texture of a paper such as canvas makes it an excellent choice for reproductions.

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Abdul Rehman
By Abdul Rehman

Hi, I'm Abdul Rehman and I'm the Blog Editor of VloggingBlog.com! Owing to my love and passion for tech gadgets, I started this blog to help others by sharing my knowledge on how to start a successful YouTube channel through blogging about techniques, tips, tricks, tutorials and reviews of relevant products that will help you create awesome videos easily!

VloggingBlog – Reviews and Guides for Cameras, Lenses, and Vlogging Gears is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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