Capture the Best Image of Your Painting

Have you ever sold your artwork or given it away as a gift or for a good cause? It’s worth thinking about the fact that once it’s gone, you won’t have it anymore. The only thing left will be the photos or digital images of your work. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to go back and capture the images after the artwork is sold. That’s why it’s important to take the best high-resolution images of your artwork while you can.

Think about it for a minute — photos or digital images of that creative work are all that you’ll have left. I mean, once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t go back and photograph it after it’s sold, at least not very easily.

So don’t you think it’s worth capturing the best high-res images you can? While you can?

Methods to capture the best image of your artwork.

Why it’s important to get High-Res images

Before we explore the two options for capturing high-resolution images of your artwork, I’d like to emphasize how crucial it is. You may think that you can save some money by taking the pictures yourself, but presenting your creative work in the best possible light is essential. Professional images of your artwork help you put your best foot forward and serve as a testament to your hard work. Moreover, if you have a website, it’s imperative to showcase your work with high-quality images. Poor-quality images can lead to a negative impression of your work. 

Having high-resolution images of your artwork not only documents your work but also gives you the freedom to use them in various ways in the future. For instance, you may want to use them for prints or…

  • putting up on your website
  • create Giclée fine art prints
  • print a catalog of your creative work
  • print postcards

Many art organizations, such as the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS), use the image submitted with the entry to print the exhibition catalog through Juried Art Services. Therefore, it is crucial to upload the best high-resolution image of your artwork when submitting it for an exhibition. If you’re not already doing this, you might be wondering why. 

Perhaps you’re like me and tend to make last-minute tweaks, leaving no time to take photos. If you’re in a hurry and can’t hire a professional, check out this article, which provides Quick Steps to Photograph Your Art with a Cellphone. This is a great option if it’s your only choice. If you’re unsure about the best way to capture high-quality images of your artwork, don’t worry. We’ll discuss a few options to help you.

Maybe you are unsure of the best way to capture high-res images of your artwork. The good news is that we will discuss a few options.

Option 1 — Hire a Professional

If you prefer to spend your time creating and can afford to hire a professional, then go for it! Just like you know everything about what you do, they know all about what they do! Professional photographers have the knowledge and equipment to properly light your artwork and capture it with the right f-stops. 

When selecting a photographer, consider asking other artists in your area for recommendations and examining samples of their work. Pay attention to whether the artwork is in focus, evenly lit, and free of shadows. Remember that these are not the 100th photo of a friend’s new grandbaby you’re looking at, so it’s essential to be critical. 

Once you’ve chosen a photographer, discuss how you’ll be using the photos, such as for high-quality giclée prints, an exhibit catalog, or promotional materials. Keep in mind that high-resolution images are often all we have after a painting has sold. Finally, request that the photographer include a Color Calibration Chart/Guide in the photos. If you’re not sure what that is, there’s an article called Meet Your New Friend — the Color Calibration Chart that explains what it is and how to use it.

  • ask for the raw files in addition to the traditional images provided. Some photographers automatically include these, while others do not.
  • ask for the largest file size their equipment will provide. As a courtesy, some photographers provide 300dpi and 72dpi versions.
  • ask for uncropped versions that include the Color Calibration Chart/Guide.

The bottom line: Leave it to the professionals! The cost of the equipment, their knowledge, and the fact that technology is always advancing make it more than worth it.

Option 2 — High-Res Scans

Scanning is the best option for achieving high-quality and clear images of your artwork. It ensures that every detail of the painting is in focus and under the same lighting conditions. However, scanning original artwork may not always be practical, especially if the artwork is large and has thick paint creating a textured surface. If possible, it is recommended to have your paintings scanned, as they offer unbeatable quality. 

While 300 dpi is considered high resolution, it is recommended that your paintings be scanned at the highest dpi available, often 1200 dpi or higher. A higher resolution provides more flexibility down the road, such as printing a banner or a print larger than the original painting or printing a detailed area without pixelation. 

It is important to remember to include the Color Calibration Chart/Guide in the scan of your artwork. 

Keep in mind that an image can always be reduced in size or resolution, but not the other way around. For more on that topic, read Answering the High/Low Res Question

If your painting is too large, it can be scanned in portions and then stitched together using Adobe® Photoshop® or a similar photo program. 

Many printers offer high-resolution scanning, and they often have large bed scanners. You can also look for a photo specialist or search online for “high-resolution scanners in your area” online. However, it may be challenging to find professionals offering traditional film scanning as the industry has moved away from it.

Option 3 — Do It Yourself

I understand the need to be fiscally conservative sometimes. I’ve been in that position myself a few times. Well, to be honest, more than a few times.

When it comes to taking your own photos, there is a wealth of information available online about how to take photos of your own artwork and what equipment you’ll need. A quick Google search will lead you to several great sources.

You could also invest in a good scanner, but be warned that they can be quite expensive. However, if you paint smaller pieces and are comfortable with Photoshop and technology, this option could work for you. I personally watched Epson’s Clearance Center for a good deal on a refurbished flatbed scanner and purchased it at a significant discount.

When selecting a scanner, keep in mind that it’s not just about the dpi listed in the description. For example, if the scanner’s resolution is listed as offering 2400 x 4800 dpi, the optical resolution is the lower number, 2400 dpi. The higher number is usually achieved through software-enhanced or interpolated resolution. In other words, the extra pixels are made up of the scanned information.

The second thing that affects the sharpness of a scanned image is the quality of the optics in the lens and the light source inside the scanner. So, if you are going to scan your artwork, it’s best to get the best flatbed scanner you can afford.

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I strongly recommend hiring a professional to photograph or scan your artwork. In the long run, if you add up the time it takes to learn how to do it yourself, plus the cost of equipment and time to actually take the photos, it’s better to hire someone. Plus, you get to go back to creating more new work!


This post was originally featured on the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society Blog.

Other Helpful Resources:

How Converting Images from RGB to CMYK Affects the Colors
Quick Steps to Photograph Your Art with a Cellphone — if it’s your only option!

Meet Your New Friend — the Color Calibration Chart

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