Set your camera to the highest quality available and if you are not using a tripod, a fairly high shutter speed.
If your camera has manual settings, it’s a good idea to try using different ISO (sensitivity) settings and different shutter speeds.
If you are using a camera on a tripod, try a slower shutter speed because sometimes this will give a better colour rendering.
Don’t be afraid of taking lots of pictures at different settings; you can pick the one that best suits your artworks, and make a note of the settings to use in future sessions.
Take your photo square on to your artwork, focus on the centre and try to fill the frame as much as possible.
Try not to stand too close, as this may cause you to need a wider angle on the camera which can cause distortion (commonly termed foreshortening) of the image. Stand back and then use the camera to zoom in to fill the frame, this will help you to avoid distortion.
Photograph outside if possible, preferably with the artwork in the shade – too much sunshine can cause glare from the paper. Indoor lighting can create unpleasant orange or blue color casts unless you reset the white balance on the camera to artificial light.
Turn the flash off! It’s never a good idea to use flash, especially on artworks behind glass as you can get flare and hotspots. It’s much better to try and photograph your artwork before you frame it and avoid the problems caused by photographing through glass!
To ensure crisp pictures, it’s a good idea to use a tripod, but a word of caution – most modern digital cameras have some sort of stabilization or vibration reduction, which is useful for hand held pictures. However, I have been advised by a professional photographer that you need to turn this off when working with a tripod and remote shutter release because it can cause the camera to kick slightly when you take the picture. In reality, the tripod is doing all the stabilization for you, so switch the stabilization or vibration reduction function off, but don’t forget to turn it back on for your normal photography.
If you have a viewfinder on your camera, use this instead of the display screen when shooting your digital pictures. You will be able to hold the camera steadier and there is less likelihood of the camera moving and creating a fuzzy picture (camera shake).
Turn the date function off, and make sure no clips or easel clamps intrude into the picture, and that frames don’t cast shadows that fall onto the painting.
Your photos will always look better if you crop out everything from around the edges of the artwork, including the frame, which can be a distraction. You will also need to check that the photo is sharp (resolution) and square. You will need some photo editing software to enable you to do this, but if you don’t have any or can’t afford to lay out a lot of money, there are products on the internet that are free to download such as ‘Picasa’; this one has been recommended to me by several people in the FVACN and I believe it is simple to use.
I hope you find these tips helpful and don’t forget – if you have any art hints and tips, I can publish them on the website to help others, just forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org You can even be anonymous if you wish.