Photo Documentation of Creative Work


High quality documentation of students’ creative work is essential for discussing their achievements online, to assess and/or grade the outcomes, but also for professional opportunities for students themselves.

Some Principal Considerations:

– A tripod is the single most important tool to achieve sharp images.

– If possible, use a good camera. However, if you don’t have a good camera, a smart phone may also achieve very reasonable results, if applied properly.

– A level is very helpful to adjust your artwork, camera, and tripod.

– Set up your camera so that it is straight-on, square with your work, and centred (the centre of the viewfinder should hit the centre of your work).

– Any work should be shot on a white (ideally) or at least a neutral background.

– Shoot any work with space surrounding the piece, and later crop your image to leave only a bit of space surrounding the work. This helps to give a sense of the object-ness of the work, even when shot straight-on.

– A high-quality camera will include an option to shoot RAW files. Use this setting for uncompressed files, rather than JPEGs (compressed files) – if available.

– Professional lighting kits (lights with a soft box) will filter the light for soft, even light. Alternatively, shooting your work outside on an overcast day can achieve similar results. 

– If working with artificial light, a good rule of thumb is that lights should be set up no closer than 2.5 meters away from work, which requires space to back up, and at a 45 degree angle. Do not use flash, because it will likely create glare.

– Aperture priority mode on F8 is a good place to start, but bracket up and down for different options. TIP: also try the automatic setting to see what happens; the images might be better, especially if you don’t really know how to use a camera.

– Those who know how to do it, may adjust lighting, colour, and use other basic cropping/editing tools, but don’t overdo it; the resulting image still needs to closely resemble the work itself. Always check the resulting image against the original work for accuracy.

Christina Renfer Vogel. On Documentation. March 2020.

Further Sources:
Janet Dywer. How to Photograph Artwork: From Settings to Lighting Setups.
Cassie Marie Edwards. How To Photograph & Edit Artwork Images With Your Phone and Free Apps. (Youtube video)
Sketchbook Skool. How to Photograph your Art. (Youtube video)
Nick Mahony. Documenting Artwork at Home.
Unknown. Documenting your Artwork. (happy to add author, if can be identified)

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