Get website-worthy photos with a smartphone

By Jessica Craddock | Weekly tips

Did you know that nowadays you don't need a fancy camera to take website-worthy photos?

Yep, that's right. Just pull out that smartphone. 

(Let me interject real quickly by saying... if you want images for selling prints, you'll need to buy or borrow an SLR camera. Smartphones need not apply here.)

You just need to know a few tricks to make your phone's camera perform to the max. 

YOU MUST HAVE NATURAL LIGHTING TO PHOTOGRAPH ART WITH AN IPHONE (OR OTHER SMARTPHONE)

If you don't listen to anything else I say in this email, make sure you use natural lighting. It will keep your images crisp and your colors correctly balanced. This is 90% of the battle. 

Compare these two images:

bad example of photographing art with smartphone
good example of photographing art with iphone

There are a few minor differences between them, but the BIGGIE is that the first is shot by lamp/overhead lighting, and the second is shot by a window. Sold yet?

Here are a few nuances to make natural lighting even better. 

  • NEVER use backlight. Always have light bouncing off the front of your art. Light coming from behind will wipe out all of your colors, contrast... basically anything you need for a good photo. See?
don't use backlights when photographing art with iphone
  • Cloudy days are your best friend. If you are trying to shoot outside or use light from windows to capture that beautiful natural light, but you end up with really harsh light and shadows, you may need to wait for a cloudy day. Yes, this might be inconvenient, but to get great photos (without spending tons on lighting equipment) you're gonna have to be ready to drop everything and shoot when those clouds roll in.
  • If you are on a deadline, use a hack. Although I don't recommend these over cloudy days, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. 
    1. Hang white sheets over the window to diffuse the light.
    2. Bounce strong light back onto the painting with white foam board/foam core to get more even light distribution. This may require a friend to help or some creative make-shift stands + duct tape.

EDIT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHED ART WITH VSCO ON YOUR IPHONE

But do not over edit your photo. 

I repeat, DO NOT OVER EDIT YOUR PHOTO.

My favorite smartphone editing app is VSCO. It's free. It's detailed. It's easy to use. It's amazing.

Three rules for using VSCO (or any editing program):

  1. Do not use filters of any kind. This distorts the image to a point where it is not an accurate depiction. You wouldn't want someone falling in love with an image, only to find out that's not exactly what it looks like, would you? (Trust is very important for online sales.)
  2. Edit while looking at your artwork. Look back and forth, back and forth, between your on-screen image and your physical artwork as you edit. Make the editing represent the art as closely as you can. Don't increase the saturation on an image because "it looks good" if it doesn't fairly represent your art. 
  3. Download a full-size image. When you are done with your editing, download the largest image size to your camera roll. Phone photos are usually 2mb or less, which is plenty big to make sure it isn't fuzzy, but not so big it slows down your website. It's also small enough people won't be stealing it to reprint full-size artworks. 

And voilà, you've got website-worthy art images, photographed with an iPhone!

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About the Author

Jessica's college experience was spent falling in love with getting her hands dirty. She showed her paintings at art galleries all over the city, but kept waiting to "make it". After the galleries took 30-50%, she would never be able to pay the bills. Determined to learn where she was going wrong, she took a job at a marketing firm where she managed over 50 projects at a time for three years, then ran her own web design company for the next three. Combining all of her unique skills, she opened The Artist Market Co. to teach artists techniques to create a thriving online business from their craft.

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