How to Photograph 3D Artwork with Dimension and Detail

We recently posted How to Photograph Your Artwork: Professional Photos Without the Cost, which focused on photographing two-dimensional works. This week we’ll cover how to photograph sculpture, ceramics and other three-dimensional art.

Photographing 3D works has its own unique challenges. How do you best capture the dimensionality and volume of the art? How do you capture its texture and avoid losing details? We’ve break down the process into simple steps.

Step 1: Position your art

  • Place the art on a flat surface with a neutral background.
  • If you don’t have white or light gray walls, buy a roll of seamless paper and set up a sweep. What is a sweep? It is a smooth and continuous backdrop formed by paper in an arc shape. To form an arc with the paper, tape it to the edge of the table/flat surface and sweep it to a vertical point behind the table/flat surface.
  • Don’t place the art too close to the background; give it some space. If using a sweep, don’t place the artwork where it starts to sweep up.

Step 2: Light the art

  • If you want even, diffused light, position two lights 45 degree away from the art. Learn how to easily accomplish this in our post about photographing 2D works.
  • If you want contrast and shadows, use two lights and play with moving one of the lights around (adjust distance and angle from object). Avoid competing shadows that will make it hard for the viewer to focus on the work itself.
  • Add a third light if you need more dimensionality.
  • If photographing ceramics, it is recommended to use only one light, and to place it directly over the subject so the light shines down onto it. This creates a shadow under the bottom edge and grounds the object.
  • Adjust the softness of the light by raising or lowering the light. The closer the light is to the subject, the larger and softer the light will be. Soft light lessens the harsh edges of shadows and creates smooth gradations of tone and color.  
  • Use a diffuser. A diffuser is made of translucent material and is placed between the object and light source to soften the light and shadows.
  • Shape the light with cardboard. Place the cardboard between the work and the light and play with angling it to create preferred gradients.
  • Tip: Strong shadows create a sense of weight to a piece, which allows a potential buyer to imagine how it would feel to be held.

Step 3: Set your camera settings

  • Set the camera to shoot in RAW so you get the most digital information in your image.
  • Set the ISO to 100 to reduce the “noise” in the image.
  • Set the camera to Aperture Priority and set the aperture to f/8 or higher to get your entire work in focus (if you want it in sharp detail). You want a larger depth of field when shooting a work up close – more depth means more details.
  • Set your white balance. Our earlier post walks you through the process. If you want to set a custom white balance to get your whites absolutely white in challenging light situations, we recommend using a gray card. Never used one before? Here is an article describing how to use a gray card.

Step 4: Position your camera

  • Place your camera on a tripod or a secure platform like a shelf to avoid camera shake and blurry photos.
  • Play with angling the camera to capture different perspectives of the work – shoot straight on or from above.
  • Place the tripod so that the art fills almost the entire frame. Avoid distortions by zooming.

Step 5: Snap away

  • Make sure to photograph your work from multiple angles.
  • If you’re not using a tripod, use your camera’s timer so that your pressing of the shutter does not create camera shake – it doesn’t take much!
  • Shooting an installation? Use a wide-angle lens to capture the entirety of the work. Wide-angle lenses allow you to get more in the frame.

Step 6: Edit your photos

  • Crop the image.
  • Adjust color, focus and contrast if necessary.
  • Save as a JPEG or TIFF. You can make derivative JPEGs from your TIFF to match upload requirements — like CaFE’s, which just changed to make your life easier! Read about it here.
  • For more helpful tips, read our post about making photo edits, easy.

More of a visuals-type of person? Watch this YouTube video by Dan Meyers to get more advice and techniques for photographing your 3D work.

Now start propping, lighting and snapping professional-looking photos of your 3D works and get it uploaded to your CaFE portfolio so you can start submitting wow-worthy photos of your art.

CallForEntry Update to Save You Time!

Great news! The CallForEntry™ (CaFE™) software has been updated to save you more time!

You can now upload images as small as 1200 pixels on one side. This change will allow you to upload images to your portfolio without taking the time to reformat them to the previously required format of 1920 pixels on one side.

As a result of this change, CaFE users may:

  • Upload JPEGs that are 1200 pixels or greater on the longest side (either H or W).
  • Spend less time upsizing JPEG files and use your upload-ready image files more easily.

Current images in your CaFE portfolio will not be affected by this change and you may continue to use these images when applying to calls. The reduced pixel size only affects new JPEG uploads.

NEW image specifications for uploading to CaFE:

  • File format: JPEG or JPG only
  • File dimensions: 1200 pixels or greater on the longest dimension
  • File size: under 5 MB

Questions? Contact us at cafe(at)westaf(dot)org.

Protect Your Artwork: Secure Your Studio & Storage

Recent events have us thinking about the importance of safeguarding our artwork. When natural disasters hit our studios, it can be disastrous. There’s only so much protecting we can do when a level 10 earthquake shakes or category 5 hurricane drops (hence the importance of digitizing our artworks). But, we should not forget about the smaller, more common hazards to our work.

You spent hundreds of hours crafting your art; take some time to secure it so that your creative effort was not wasted. We have a few tips to help keep your artwork protected and preserved.

 

  • Put your works on wooden pallets to keep them off of the ground. This will protect them from flooding caused by rainfall or burst pipes.

  • Protect works from above too. Cover your art with heavy plastic or scrap carpeting; wrap it completely to protect from the elements above and below.

  • Never store your work near windows, doors, vents or ceiling fans. That being said, you want your storage unit or studio to have ventilation. Condensation forms when cool air meets moisture, and it destroys paintings.

  • Keep the temperature of your studio or storage unit between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid fading, cracking and chipping. This keeps both your works and your art supplies safe.

  • Store three-dimensional works on padded metal shelving and place the heaviest works on the bottom shelves. Make sure the bottom shelves are elevated from the floor.

  • Secure those shelves to the wall and/or floor. Why? Unsecure shelves fall during earthquakes or float away during floods.
    • If you live in a place where earthquakes are possible, add a rope or other barrier to keep items from vibrating off of shelves.
    • Secure works on display with museum wax to keep them from vibrating off of the shelves. Museum gel (typically used for glass secured on glass) can be used as well.

  • Store paintings in vertical storage bins with barriers between artworks, preferably acid-free materials.

  • If you have to stack your artworks, place corrugated cardboard barriers between artwork and stack work front-to-back and back-to-back. Please don’t stack unframed art in this way; you don’t want paper/canvas making contact with other works, and weight on corners can puncture the work.

  • Digitize your work! Photograph and inventory your works. You’ll want a record in case those works are destroyed. We hope that NEVER happens to you.

  • The same goes for recording your material supplies. In the unfortunate event you need records for insurance, you’ll have them at your ready.

Here are some additional resources for safeguarding your artwork and maker’s space:


Now go protect your work and rest easy tonight!

10 Art Business Books to Ignite Your Art Career

There are over 73,000 results for “Business of Art” books on Amazon. That’s overwhelming! We’ve curated the list down to our 10 favorites.

These art business books will help grow your career whether you need advice on art marketing, legal issues, selling or grant writing.


The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Author: Jackie Battenfield

Jackie Battenfield, a successful artist and professional development coach, wrote this comprehensive guide to teach emerging and mid-career artists how to build and maintain a professional art career. Battenfield provides strategies for all aspects of the job – marketing, online promotion, grant writing and portfolio development. It’s all easy to comprehend through her real-life examples, illustrations and step-by-step exercises. Keep this book by the nightstand!


I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion

Author: Alyson Stanfield

“Enjoy sharing your art as much as your enjoy making it.” – Alyson Stanfield

Self-promotion is a big part of succeeding in the art world  and unfortunately for most artists, it doesn’t come easy.  Luckily, Alyson Stanfield, an art marketing expert, consultant, and author of the popular The Art Biz Blog, helps artists market themselves authentically and genuinely. This book focuses on Internet marketing – building a social media presence, blogging and newsletter secrets, and getting your name into search engines.


Legal Guide for the Visual Artist

Author: Tad Crawford

Whether you like it or not, the legal system is a part of our professional lives. Art law expert, Tad Crawford, crafted an informative guide of the legal implications artists face. He walks through contracts, taxes, copyright, litigation, commissions, licensing, and artist-gallery relationships with practical examples. He also shares sample legal forms and contracts, and offers tips for connecting with affordable attorneys.


Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class

Author: Elaine Grogan Luttrull

Budgeting, taxes and cash flow, Oh My! Books about finances are usually dull and boring, but not this book by CPA and artist, Elaine Grogan Luttrull. It’s filled with engaging stories and examples to help you succeed in your business endeavors. Luttrell will boost your confidence and expertise in taxes, budgets, money management, business etiquette, and much more.


The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing

Author: Gigi Rosenberg

Are grants your white whale? This guide gives you all the fishing supplies you need like writing tips and marketing strategies from grant officers, grant writers and fundraising specialists. Tap into the fundraising resources at your disposal and finance your artistic endeavors with this accessible read.


The Artist’s Guide to Selling Work

Author: Annabelle Ruston

How do you sell your work in today’s competitive market? This guide covers selecting the right gallery, approaching galleries, pricing, terms and conditions, artist agents, working with publishers, and public art commissions. Ruston also gives advice on social networking and e-marketing so that you can seize digital opportunities.


Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered

Author: Austin Kleon

“[The] subtitle could just as easily be, ‘How to Self-promote Without Being a Jerkface.’ It’s an incredibly useful and compulsively readable short book.” — The Fast Company

Austin Kleon helped readers unlock their creativity in the New York Times bestseller, Steal Like an Artist. Now, he helps artists get known in his 10-step journey of self-promotion in which he encourages creatives to share their work and voice. The book is small and short, but it packs a punch.

Kleon emphasizes audience building as a process, not a product. Chapters like “You Don’t Have to Be a Genius;” “Share Something Small Every Day;” and “Stick Around,” contribute to the manifesto of being open, generous, brave and productive in our digital age.


Art Inc. – The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

Author: Lisa Congdon

“Art, Inc. is a revelation. At long last, there is a resource to help creative people articulate their aesthetic values, successfully brand their business, and manage their artist’s income.” – Debbie Millman, president, Sterling Brands

Professional artist, Lisa Congdon, helps artists do what they love and make a career out of it. Learn how to set actionable goals, diversify your income, manage your bookkeeping, copyright your work, promote with social media, build a standout website, exhibit with galleries, sell and price your work, license your art, acquire an agent, and much more.


Sell With Confidence

Author: Barry Watson

Sales does not have to be sleazy. Barry Watson shares actionable techniques to improve your confidence and skills as a salesperson. Understand the true nature of selling, discover the “secret sauce,” be yourself, positively redefine rejection, turn setbacks into comebacks, and create a sales-confidence game plan. You’ll also get a downloadable 7-Step Sales Cheat Sheet!


Art/Work- Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As you Pursue Your Art Career

Authors: Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber

No matter where you are in your professional career, you’ll get incredible value from this comprehensive guide. Heather Darcy Bhandari, a gallery director, and Jonathan Melber, an arts lawyer, give you the business and legal tools to stay in control of your career. The book covers business basics like inventory tracking and preparing invoices; legal precautions like registering a copyright and drafting consignment forms; promotional tools like websites and business cards; and how to approach career decisions like choosing the right venue for showing your work. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way!