Let There Be Light

I am often asked how I get the colors in my paintings so vibrant. Although there are a number of different things working together, the first thing I’m going to start with is the last step in the process. Photographing the painting. If you don’t photograph your artwork properly, it doesn’t matter how vibrant your colors are, they just aren’t going to come across correctly.

The key to photographing artwork is right in the word “photo-” = light, “-graphy” = drawing. Since you are literally “drawing with light” the light is the most important factor. Many people think that if they shoot in direct sunlight, they will have adequate light. Adequate, yes. Right kind, no. Sunlight is blue…at least on our planet. Our eyes are capable of compensating for this, but a camera is not. Artwork that is photographed in sunlight usually seems to have a bluish haze over it that actually masks the colors and fades the details.

Another mistake often made in photographing artwork is using an incandescent light bulb, such as a table lamp. Well, this kind of light is actually very yellow, and usually too dim. The result is an orange, underexposed picture – often blurry, since the shutter has to stay open extra long to get an image.

So what about a flash? Yes, that is a much better light source, but unfortunately, most flashes are attached to the camera – the exact wrong place for photographing artwork. You’ve probably seen the result – a huge white glare right in the center of the artwork. The surface of most paintings is just too reflective to photograph with a flash pointing right at it.  So what’s the answer? Well, it takes a little effort, but if your artwork is worth photographing, it’s worth doing right.

Stay tuned for the best method for photographing your artwork and bringing out the true colors…