How to Photograph 3D ArtBelow are some ideas on how to photograph 3 Dimensional (3D) art for promotional purposes and/or for providing digital entries for art competitions.  This also includes ideas and tips on how to professionally photograph art installations and public art. 

If an artist were to follow these ideas when recording and presenting their 3D art, their chances of being accepted will surely increase.

At the end of this post is a link to a more detailed PDF article on this subject, along with additional ideas on how to photograph any 2D art.

This information was gratefully provided by the Visual Resources Center, of the University of Colorado, Boulder, Department of Art & Art History   

1.   Positioning Your Art

  • For smaller sculptural work, place your art on a flat surface with a neutral colored background
  • Don’t place your art too close to the background, give it some space
  • If your art is small enough and you want even diffused light, use a tabletop soft-box
  • If using soft-box lighting, place the lights at 45-degree angles from the art, halfway between the art and the camera, this will give even, diffused light
  • Then move around one of the lights to start creating shadows, once you have reached the desired shadow leave the light and begin shooting
  • Some pieces of art need three lights to create dimensionality.  If needed, add a third light.

2.   Camera Settings

  • Set the ISO to 100 (this will reduce “noise” in the digital image)
  • Set the camera to “aperture priority” (this will keep the aperture locked)
  • Set the aperture to f/8 or higher (this will put more of the image in focus)
  • Set the white balance if shooting in jpeg or tiff (Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Custom, etc.)
  • Set the camera to timer mode (this is to minimize camera shake)

3.   Setting up the Camera

  • Set up the camera on a tripod, make sure the tripod and camera are both level
  • Place the tripod at a distance where the art fills almost the entire view, yet you are not too close to get distortions
  • Shooting the work
  • Get the entire image in the frame with a bit of background (you will crop it out later)
  • Focus your image (manually or with autofocus)
  • Press the button and let go of the camera, the timer function will open the shutter and take the shot
  • Bracket your shot by going up and down one stop with the shutter speed
  • Leave the tripod in place in case you need to come back and shoot more images
  • Make sure to capture your piece from multiple angles if needed
  • Image editing in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Gimp, etc.

4.   Post Processing

  • Open an image in Photoshop and set the white balance
  • Save as a tiff
  • Crop the image
  • Correct any distortions if necessary
  • Adjust color and contrast if necessary
  • Zoom to 100% to check for imperfections
  • If you have the storage space, save both your tiff and RAW images
  • You can now make derivative jpegs from your tiff to match the requirements that are needed

5.   Tips for Photographing Installations

  • Shooting installations require capturing full views of the work as well as details.
  • Try shooting your full views with a wide-angle lens.  Remember that distortions can occur at the edges of a wide-angle lens, so zoom in a bit with the lens when shooting.  Always look at the image on the view-finder to see if you have noticeable distortions.
  • To capture the installation in focus you must keep your aperture closed down quite a bit.  Try using only f/16 or higher and see what your results look like.  Because you are using such a small aperture and lighting in installations are very often dim, a tripod is an absolute necessity.
  • Make sure to get shots from a variety of angles and positions.  When people walk through or into an installation they often can experience the art from many different views, make sure your photos can document that aspect of an installation.
  • Be very aware of the backgrounds that may exist within the space of the installation.  Make sure to avoid elements that may distract from the piece, or be sure to include them if they are part of the piece.
  • While most installations can be shot with the current lighting, sometimes adding additional light can be helpful to highlight a certain area. If you are supplementing the current light with a lighting-kit, be sure to position the kit so it cannot be seen in the photo.
  • Make sure to get lots of detail shots of the installation, and be sure to still use a tripod.

6.   Tips for Photographing Outdoor Buildings or Public Art

  • It is best to shoot at dusk or dawn when photographing buildings or outdoor sculpture/public art.  There are better lighting and fewer people to get in your shot.  Only photograph during the day if there is a very specific lighting reason to do so, for example, shadows are an important element.
  • Since you will be shooting in a low light situation (dusk or dawn), a tripod is absolutely necessary.
  • Be sure to get multiple shots from many angles.  And be very aware of the background of your shot.  Moving to the side one or two feet may give you a significantly better shot.
  • For larger building or public art pieces, you may need a wide angle lens.  Be sure to watch out for distortion at the edges of the frame.  Zoom in a bit or stand closer to your subject and it may help with the corner distortions.
  • Your depth of field can vary quite a bit with outdoor photography.  For large buildings where it is important to get the entire structure in focus, use a small aperture (f/22).  For isolated sculptures where you want just the sculpture in focus and the background blurry use a larger aperture (f/5.6).
  • While almost all public buildings are legal to photograph, a few are not (especially in foreign countries).  Do some research to find out if you are allowed to photograph your site of interest.
  • Be sure to bracket your shots.  You may not get another chance to come back and shoot the subject again so be sure to have a variety of exposures from each shot to choose from later.
  • Also, remember to take a shot of any kind of plaque or ID that may be posted near the building or art to help you identify it later.

Many thanks to the Visual Resources Center, University of Colorado Boulder, Department of Art and Art History for proving this wonderful information.  Here is a link of a PDF file which provides more detailed information along with diagrams How to Photograph Art - University of Colorado Boulder  

Here is a related article about this subject "How to Photograph Your Art the Right Way"  


DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR ART THIS WAY TO ART COMPETITIONSEvery month Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery will receive entries that we simply cannot use due to the poor quality of the images submitted by the artist. Here are the top 5 art submission problems that we see every month. In this article, we will present these problems and issues, visually with example images, in a slideshow at the bottom of this post. Next to this paragraph is the post image of the Edward Hopper’s “The Long Leg” print as our example of how we (and I am sure every other serious art gallery or art organization) would like to receive any entries to our art competitions.

Below are the top 5 common presentation problems that we frequently receive:

1. Framed Images - We see images that are submitted to our gallery that are framed, crooked and not level.  Submitted images such as this will not be accepted, as it detracts from our gallery presentations and shows.

On a wall, in many cases, framing will help to establish, highlight and enhance the appearance of any art. On a website, the exact opposite is true and any framing of art will detract and take away the appearance of the art. We simply will not present art in that manner and in our rules, as well as in and throughout our submission process this fact is stated several times and in different ways.

Our main focus and goal is to have a show which not only represents the best art which was submitted to the competition but also to have art that will show well to our gallery visitors. Any images which are framed, crooked and the image lines are not level, in our opinion, is an unacceptable entry to have in any of our online art shows.

2. Images Have Hot Spots - Any images that are submitted that have highlights or overexposed “hot spots” on the image will not be used as well. This condition is caused by using a flash camera directly in front of the painting that you are trying to reproduce.

Obviously, the best solution (though it is the most expensive) is to have the art professionally scanned. However, the next best thing to do is to have the art photographed in a natural outdoor, diffused light. See our article How to Photograph Your Art the Right Way. Any images of paintings or any photographs should always be color corrected, balanced and appear as natural as possible to the original.

3. Under Exposed Images - Artists, who submit underexposed images of their art, will result in not being selected for our art shows. Besides being difficult to see, evaluate and to judge, this type of presentation of an artist’s art will not be shown to anyone who visits our website.

4. Images With Digital Markings - Art which is submitted to us which contains any digital markings on the face of the image will not be used in our shows, no matter how good that we think that the art is. Any digital marks with dates and other Metadata simply detract, not only from the art and but also from the show’s overall appearance, presentation and will not be considered to be included.

5. Images with Watermarks - Any art which is submitted with watermarks will not be used by our art gallery. Watermarks do not allow us to judge the art completely, as a watermark takes away from our goal of having the most professional and best online art show that there is on the internet. This issue also holds true for any art which contains any large artist signatures or signs. If we like the art, and believe that is “show worthy” we will try to crop it out, but if not, it is just better to submit to us the purest form of your art that there is without any watermarks.

Many artists believe that by having watermarks or large signatures on their art that this will protect them from someone stealing their art on the internet. We believe that a 1000 pixel wide x 72 resolution image (that is what any of the art on our website gets resized to for our shows) when printed will produce a 720 pixel or 7.2” wide image of rather poor quality and an image that is not worth reproducing.

If as an artist, you are afraid that someone will steal your art and then you should take all of your art off the internet right now, as I guarantee, that eventually, someone will do this to you. It just the way the internet is! However, since we all need the internet, the best thing to do is to at least make the posted art of such quality, in order to not make it worthwhile for the thief to steal.

These are submission problems that we commonly see and these examples will cause us to reject someone’s particular art. There are articles on this website that can help you improve your presentations and there are also many free programs on the internet that you can download or use that will allow you to enhance your art when submitting for any art exhibitions and art shows.

A good reproduction of your art may mean the difference between getting into an important art gallery, art exhibition or for making a sale of your art. Therefore, it is well worth the time to take to learn how to improve your art presentations and art submissions and have them done the right way.


"How Not to Submit" Examples Below


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HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH ART THE RIGHT WAYAs an artist (other than a photographer) you are required to take pictures of your art in order to submit your art digitally for exhibitions, presentations and for promotional purposes. We see a lot of submissions by artists that have photographed their paintings and due to their sloppiness, the end result simply does not translate into what the artist originally had intended. A good photograph of your art may mean the difference between getting into an exhibition or making that important sale. It is worth it to take the time to get this aspect of your art presentation done the right way.

Here are some tips and pointers that will help you improve your art presentations the next time you are photographing your 2-dimensional art.  

1. Photograph your art outside when it is cloudy or with an overcast sky. Indirect light will show your art better than any other light. I prefer that the artwork is facing north when this is done. Shooting inside with a flash is very difficult to do the right way. Outside is a “natural” light and will provide the best representation of your art. Just make sure that it is indirect light.

2. Use a tripod or any other device (boxes, table or ladder) to hold the camera steady.

3. Match the angle of the camera with the tilt of the art that is propped against the wall and make sure the camera is focused at the exact center of the art. Do not use a “wide angle” lens. If you have a zoom lens, then use that.

4. If at all possible, when shooting,  do not have your art framed or with glass in the frame. It is very hard to get away from any reflections in the glass. Also, if the art is frame-less this will help in post-production. If it is framed with glass or plastic make sure it is absolutely clean.

5. Make sure that the flash is off the camera. If not, the flash will produce “hot spots” on your art and there is practically nothing that you will be able to do about this.

6. When your art is leaning against the wall and you have focused your camera lens in the manner previously described, the thing to look out for are any distortions of the art and that your edges are straight and parallel. In the viewfinder match the edges of the art with the inside edges of the frame. If you cannot get it perfect, this can be taken care of in post-production.

7. If your camera has different settings like SLR then try different shutter speeds and ISO settings. Try to bracket the camera’s settings from high to low and you should be able to produce an image somewhere in the middle of the settings that match the depth and color of your art. Slower shutter speeds will help with your colors. Experiment with the exposures and shutter speeds if you are doing this for the first time. Better yet, if you have a photographer friend see if they can help you with this.

8. You will need photo editing software to crop the image in order to eliminate any distortions and lines that could not be made exactly parallel. If you do not have an editing program, 2 good free programs can be found at or at I also suggest that you eliminate the frame when you crop the image. Also, use the editing software to balance your colors and contrast. It will never be perfect, but you will be able to get pretty close representation of your art. Make sure that you are producing a jpeg image for the submission process as this is the accepted standard.

Overall, an image of your art will never be perfect but with trial, error, and experimentation you should be able to present your art in a better manner than you were previously doing. Remember, you are competing with other artists that are sweating over this aspect of presenting their art, as they know how important it is. It is time for you to take your art presentation to a higher level. Good luck!

Here is a related article about this subject "How Photograph 3 Dimensional the Right Way"


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