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How to Document Your Art – Getting Started

January 6, 2010

taking photos of artIf you hope to have your artwork shown one day, it’s essential that you learn how to document, or take pictures of your art. No matter what type of art gallery you submit to, they will almost always expect to see some kind of example of your work. Most of the time, they will not ask for originals and it’s up to you to provide documentation of your art. Because this is what the gallery will base its decision to give you a show on, you want to make sure you present your work in the best way possible. Quality documentation is one of the key elements of an exhibition proposal.

So how do you make sure you get quality documentation of your artwork? Before you start taking photos, here are some things to consider:


The Type of Documentation

When it comes to submitting artwork, you have three choices: digital images, slides, or prints. Make sure you check the gallery’s submission guidelines to see what they will accept. Some will accept all and some might only accept one or two forms.

 Slides are a more traditional form of documentation, and while some people still prefer them, most people agree that digital images are much easier and more affordable. Digital images allow you to manipulate the colour and brightness of your pictures if you need to and can be submitted either on a CD or electronically through email.

 Prints seem to be the least efficient form; they are bulky, costing more to ship and also more expensive to print. It is a good idea to include at least one in your proposal so that curators can get a quick preview without hauling out the computer or slide projector.


Digital vs Film Cameras

This is largely a matter of person opinion and depends on what you’re knowledgeable and comfortable with. There are lots of sites that compare the benefits of film and digital cameras, but neither one is better for documenting art. At one time,  you may have been limited by the types of documentation you wanted to take. The good news is that digital photos can now be converted into slides, and film photos can be put on a CD, and both types of cameras offer similar functions and control.

Personally, I prefer digital because it allows me to see my pictures instantly and make sure I have a good quality image. I don’t find that using digital limits me in any way, and I like being able to manipulate photos afterwards.


Get to Know Your Camera

Whichever camera you decide to go with, take some time to learn its functions. You’ll need to know how to focus, adjust shutter speed and aperture,control the white balance and delay the shutter.

 If you have a digital camera, you will need to know how to adjust the quality of your photos. It’s best to use the highest settings to get the best quality possible. This will allow you to crop and manipulate the photo as needed without losing quality.

If you have a film camera, get to know the different film speeds and how to adjust your camera to accommodate them.

It’s also a good idea to invest in a tripod to keep your camera steady, which makes it easier to reduce blurriness.


Coming up I will discuss in more detail how to actually take photos of your art. Stay updated by signing up for an email subscription.


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