Photographing Your Paintings to Make Giclee Canvas Prints

by Eric Von Lehmden | December 14, 2011

For this blog post our very own Caroline Cohoon will take the reigns. Caroline is not only our amazing Director of Customer Service but she is also an accomplished photographer and world traveler. Take it away Caroline.

Thanks Eric! You know, selling original paintings is a wonderful thing but it comes with a price. Not only meaning it comes with a large price tag, but also the fact that you no longer have the painting around. Making giclee canvas prints is a great way to get even more out of your art.

The art market often takes a big hit when the economy takes a down turn, and be able to offer more affordable options for you art through giclees you can help keep business thriving. Offering giclees in no way diminishes the value or desirability of your original painting. Originals are truly one of a kind and show a depth and texture that won’t always be identical in the giclee copy. You can also embellish each giclee after printing so that each one becomes a new and unique piece with even more value.

Some places offer scanning services but unless you are in a big city you may not be able to find somewhere capable of scanning large paintings. You can also hire a photographer to take digital photos of your art in a studio but both these options may add a lot of expense to your reproduction budget. Here are a few tips to getting a good digital photo of your art that will make for good quality giclee reproductions.

Make sure your camera settings are correct. You want the highest resolution available. While cameras today are often 10+ MP you can set them to a lower setting to get more photos on a memory card. For your reproductions, always make sure it is on the maximum setting. Check the compression level as well; you want a large JPG file that won’t compress the photos causing pixelation. This usually looks like stair steps or a pie piece, but it may also be described as "standard, fine or superfine." You want "superfine" or the pie piece. If you don’t have a good quality camera you might consider renting one for a day from a local camera shop. Tell them your plans and see what equipment they recommend.

Lighting is key. You want the most even light possible. If you like to varnish your paintings to make them glossy it is best to photograph them before adding that varnish to reduce any glare. Make sure all the lighting is the same. If you have daylight from windows in the scene as well as indoor lights the colors will not reproduce correctly. You could shoot outside in shade for even light, or indoors with only one light source but try to make sure there are no shadows. Turn the flash off. It will only create shadows and glare.

Put the camera on a tripod to make sure it gets a sharp picture. Set it to be straight on the art and as close as possible. You want to fill the image as much as you can with the art to maximize resolution. Try to get the painting as level as possible. If there is a slight angle then the painting will not appear square in the finished digital file.

Take extra shots. Don’t take just one, take a few to make sure. You may also experiment shots in different lighting to make sure you like the end result.

The digital picture will likely need some touchups to make sure it is the best possible copy of your painting. Color and contrast adjustment, as well as touching up any glare spots or leveling the edges to make sure it is square. If you have some knowledge of Photoshop you can try these adjustments yourself. Never save over your original, give the edited version a new name and save it as a copy just in case you need to go back to the original. To maintain quality, if you crop the photo make sure you don’t change the resolution and make it smaller. When adjusting the image size always make sure that "resample image" is unchecked. Also save as a JPG at the maximum quality level which in Photoshop is number 12. This is the same setting as the compression level we discussed setting for the camera.

If you aren’t satisfied with your results then you may want to choose to have it professionally done. Get in touch with some local artist groups and see if they have recommendations or perhaps have a discount setup with someone who can make digital copies for you.

Making giclee prints on canvas helps bring your paintings alive. Since the texture matches that of an original painting on canvas it adds realism and makes an incredible copy. Again, it won’t be the same as your original but it will make a beautiful piece of art with excellent value.

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