Documenting Your Work

In the Studio: Documenting your Work
In the Studio: Documenting your Work

If you are reading this post, check out my previous post about organizing your work. It is a good place to start before tackling this section, so you have a template that works for you, where you can write down all of the necessary information to keep track of your pieces, and that includes the photographs of them. 

There are a couple of ways to document your work, depending on your needs, materials, and size. If you want great images of the actual piece itself, then you should either use a scanner for smaller pieces on paper or a camera and tripod for larger pieces that are on canvas, on wood panels, or sculptural. Usually, you would always need all different kinds of images, but you can start with just a picture of the piece and detail images if you are only planning on submitting them to shows. If you also want to stage your pieces to sell commercially, you can start to get creative. Here are tips on documenting your work:

Smaller works on paper:

In the Studio: Documenting your Work

Use a scanner. The scanner can be smaller than your piece, but not too much smaller. You can then use photoshop to merge the images together and edit from there. I tend to scan them at 600dpi, which is super overkill for what I need, but I do kill two birds with one stone by then being able to crop smaller pieces of it to make detailed images that still look great. The general size of these images should be 300dpi saved in both tiff/psd and jpeg form. Then you are also going to want to save it as a 75dpi jpeg. This size and format are ideal for uploading images to your website because it won't take forever to load. 

Larger works on canvas, wood, or sculptural

Hang it on a blank wall, with a lot of natural light shining on it. You should try to do this photoshoot on an overcast day, where the sky is covered in clouds but it is still bright. That way the light will be dispersed evenly, and you won’t get your shadow on the image while you are trying to photograph it. Use a tripod!!! And get as close as you can, instead of zooming in from far away. Put your camera on a 10 second timer, and don’t touch it until it is done taking the picture. 

TIP: if there is a glare somewhere on your piece, try taking a large drawing pad, or piece of cardboard, and holding it over the piece to block the light in that one area. This will take some experimenting to make sure you are blocking out the right area, and that it isn’t affecting the light on the rest of the piece. 

Now you need to take separate detail images. Get as close as you can to where you want to photograph the detail, without the image being blurry. Still use a tripod and put the camera on a timer. Get at least 3 details, but the more the merrier. You can just choose from them later. 

Staging your pieces:

In the Studio: Documenting your Work

1. Pick the right spot.

This can be hard if you don’t have a lot of options, but it should have a lot of natural light, a blank white wall, and some sort of shelving or other items in the frame to stage with. 

2. Hang your pieces.

For works on paper, you will need to frame them. Choose your frame carefully. Black might not be the best for your work, and having a tiny mat might make it feel cramped. Also be careful of the reflections that show up in the glass, photographing on an overcast day will minimize these. Photograph just the piece in its frame to have a simple, professional option. 

3. Stage your work.

If it is big enough to hang above a couch, make sure your couch is presentable. The point of the photograph is to make your work look better. Stay generic. Make sure the viewer can visualize it in their space. They might have a couch right, but they might not have a Star Wars themed room. 

4. Photograph.

You don’t need to use a tripod for this one, as they are used as an example and not to see detail. With that being said, make sure they are still clear! Take multiple so you can choose the best ones later. 

5. Stage it multiple ways.

The more options you have later the better. One scene might look good for one piece and not another. But with that being said, to make your job easier, if you have a lot of peices that need to be staged the same way. You can take a picture of the background, then work your way around photoshop to insert the basic images you took before. 

6. Editing your work.

If you don’t know photoshop very well, I suggest looking up some basic tutorials. Once you know where something is you are good, but trying to find it on your own can be impossible. I find new things every time I am using it. Here are some basics you might need:

a. Crop out anything distracting.

For the general pieces, crop out the edges that didn’t merge all the way, or the frame around it. For the staged pieces, stick with a general crop size. I use 4:5 or 5:4 depending on the orientation. 

In the Studio: Documenting your Work

b. Levels.

The next step is to fix the light. Make sure the left slider is just at the edge of the shape that is created in the chart, and the right one is just at the edge of the right side.

c. Brightness.

I then open up brightness and contrast and bump up the brightness and maybe a little contrast. A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY don’t over do it. TIP: to keep from going overboard, I slide the slider to make it really bright, then work backward until it looks right again. 

d. Curves.

This one gets tricky and rather dangerous. If you can see that your piece looks too red, or green, then you can open up curves and go to the green tab, I then click in the middle of the line right below it, a little goes a long way here. Some pieces can be super tricky and if it really looks off, consider a reshoot. 

e. Skew/transform.

This one I try not to use. Sometimes I do with a staged shoot. If you want it to be straight, but it is a little off, you can skew it to make it straight again. Don’t overdo it though or it can look really weird. You may have to then use transform to stretch it in or out to its original shape. 

7. Save Everything.

in a 300 dpi jpeg and pds/tiff, and a 75 dpi jpeg file. 

8. Keep everything organized.

I have each piece in their own folder, broken down by originals, staged, and details. Staged has a framed image and two other options. There are also three options in each of the detailed folders.

9. Get Creative!

Your pieces might look better with someone in them, or with something goofy in the background. The top sellers on Etsy really do a great job with their photographs. They always look great. You can even use their helpful tips for photographing to help you with this as well. (P.S. you can find my art on Etsy too!)

Let me know if you have questions and I will try to help as best as I can. I can't wait to see how creative your images get!

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As always, leave comments and questions so we can show you what you want to see. Have fun living your colorful life and remember to check out ours on Instagram and Pintrest.

Kelsey Fons

Owner and CEO, kfons