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Photographing your Artwork with a Smartphone

Optimizing your artwork for digital use or to be viewed online (social media or art competitions) is essential. This guide takes you through the process from how to photograph your artwork with correct file type, file size and resolution using camera settings to editing on your smartphone. 


Please consider doing a google search to learn how to optimize artwork on your specific smartphone model.




Artwork Photograph

Art competitions generally accept photos of artwork only, with no frames or background behind photo visible. 3D art, which occupies space and has volume, should be placed in front of a white or grey wall before it's photographed.


Angle of Your Photograph
To avoid distortion (such as the bottom of your image being wider than the top) make sure your artwork is upright by hanging it on a wall or placing it on the floor. If you can’t achieve a perfect  position, ensure your phone and painting are at the same angle.

Lighting Your Artwork
Always photograph your work in diffused natural light. Don’t photograph your work in direct sunlight. There should be no dappled light or sunbeams across your work.

For optimal lighting, take photographs of your artwork outside on a bright but cloudy day. Artificial light has fall-off, which means that it halves in power with every doubling of distance. This makes it hard to get even lighting across your work and the image can appear brighter on one side. Natural light, on the other hand, has no fall-off outdoors.


Camera Settings on Smartphone
Turn off the flash — The flash on a smartphone can create annoying hotspots and glare on your artwork. Tap the Flash button, which is a lightning bolt icon, in the top left corner of the Camera app screen. (In camera view click on lightning icon on top left to turn off flash)

Turn on your camera’s grid option — Most smartphones have an option to superimpose a three-by-three grid on the phone’s screen. This is useful for ensuring your artwork is properly centred in the frame and square to the camera. (In camera settings click on Grid)


Select JPG (JPEG)  — Optimizing your artwork for digital use or to be viewed online (social media or art competitions) is essential to make sure that it remains as true to life as possible. (In camera settings select Format - JPG or Most compatible)


Don’t use HDR — HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Using it, your camera takes several exposures then blends them to create a single photo that preserves details in both the scene’s dark and light areas. This works best in high-contrast situations such as landscapes, where the sky is bright and the ground is comparatively dark. When photographing art, however, it can unnaturally darken and lighten areas and affect color. Best to leave it turned off and ensure you have good even light instead. (Settings - Photos do not select HDR))

Photo Editing on Smartphones:
There are photo editing options on a smartphone which can allow you to do things such as crop, rotate and adjust the contrast, brightness and saturation of an image. Art competitions generally accept photos of artwork only with no frames or background behind photo showing. (To crop an image, open photo, click crop icon located in bottom right corner to delete any unnecessary background.)


Photo Editing Software:

Photoshop Elements ($99) is a low cost option to Photoshop and does not require an Adobe subscription, Lightroom is another low cost editing program.

Resolution / File Size:
Web images generally need a lower resolution than if you were to send them to print, as images with a really high resolution end up loading really slowly and taking up a lot of space. (Settings on smartphone) 

You’ll also need to make sure that the size of your image is not too large or small so that it doesn’t become pixelated and shows your artwork in the best possible light. Ideally you’ll want to save your image at the highest quality setting, without it being a huge image. The maximum upload limit of 3MB for images, which is roughly 1182 x 887 pixels with an aspect ratio 4:3.

Digital File Types: (JPGs / PNGs)
Images are best saved as either JPGs or PNGs as most website hosting platforms or competition software will accept either of these file types. Try to avoid saving as TIFFs or HEIC (which is what photos sometimes save as on Apple devices) as you’ll find that these are not fully optimised for web use. (Settings on smartphone) 

Color Profiles: (RGB / CMYK)  
In terms of color space/profiles, for the web you’ll want to save your image as an RGB. CMYK is generally used for printing, whereas RGB is best for digital images that will be displayed on a screen. You can convert your image from CMYK to RGB fairly easily when editing your photo in Photoshop.

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