How to Exhibit Your Work at a CFA Micro Gallery
If you're not a member of the Center for the Arts, you can join now at the Associate Artist level which is half of the lowest fee that other members pay.If you are a CFA member, just work up an idea of what your solo or group exhibit would be (for example, a theme or most recent work or a particular medium, method, substrate or presentation). Then download our Micro Gallery Application. All of the details are on that form. Fill it out and send it to the VAG Committee. Thank you for considering sharing your work with us at a Micro Gallery!|
What focal length lens should you use to photograph your art?
The two images below illustrate how your photograph is affected by the focal length of your camera lens. The model didn't move and nothing was changed except the focal length and distance between the lens and the subject. The shorter 20mm lens distorts the subject especially at the close distance that you would use to photograph your work. The longer 200mm lens is a better choice for the model and your artwork. Both images are Copyright photographer Dan Vojtěch and published here with his permission. More examples of focal length effects, and Dan's outstanding photography.
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What is a "gray card" and why is it important when photographing art?
You can buy a cardboard or laminated plastic card that has been printed with a gray pigment or ink that reflects a specific amount of light (18%) falling onto it that is midway between the lightest and darkest tones that your camera can use. The two primary purposes are to 1. help your camera's light meter determine accurate exposure for your artwork, and other subjects that reflect light, and 2. serve as a reference for acceptably accurate color.
- 1. Exposure: Most light meters are calibrated to read the "middle" reflectance accurately. If you place a gray card at your artwork, and take a reading of only the card with your in-camera light meter or separate hand-held meter, the exposure should be correct regardless of whether your artwork is mostly very light tones or very dark tones. For example, let's say you're photographing your painting of a snow scene where everything is mostly white and a few light gray tones. If you just point your camera or light meter at the painting and release the shutter, your image of your snow scene will be mostly gray. (That will happen with real life snow scenes too!)
- Here's what to do: If you have a gray card, lean it against your painting as close to it as possible. Move your camera so close to the gray card that that all you see in the viewfinder or on the camera's screen is the gray card. Don't worry about focusing; it doesn't matter with the gray card. If you can set your camera to "M" manual exposure, set the f-stop (aperture) and shutter speed to what it says in the display and write it down so that you can use that setting later, as long as the light remains the same. If your camera does not have a Manual exposure setting, with most digital cameras you can slightly depress the shutter release and hold the pressure to keep the exposure. Then, take the gray card out of the way, back up to get the full painting in your viewfinder or on the screen, and release the shutter. If you do not have a gray card, just blast away at different exposure settings until you see something that looks okay. Much better to use a gray card.
- 2. Color: Most of today's digital cameras do a good job of automatically correcting color for major color differences such as daylight and artificial indoor lighting ("tungsten"), but when it comes to your artwork, you need better color accuracy.
- Here's what to do: After you have completed “1. Exposure” above, put the gray card back in front of your painting. This time leave the gray card there, and back up to about where you were when you did step 1, and make another exposure with the same settings as before. This time the gray card will be in the shot. That image will be your color reference image for use with Photoshop, Lightroom or other imaging software.
- Your brain accommodates for subtle changes in the color of light. For example, if you are photographing outside, your artwork will pick up blue from a clear sky above and green from any grass below. Unless you train yourself to see it, you won't even notice it... until you see the image. In selecting where to photograph your artwork, avoid strong colors nearby such as a red brick wall. (Speaking of walls, neutral white or gray walls are great for bouncing light onto a subject to fill-in dark shadows.) A good spot would be a gray or black driveway below and an overcast day above, or in the shadow of a building.
Whatever the color of the light, your gray card in your color reference image should be neutral gray. If it’s not neutral gray when you view it, use your imaging software to correct it. When you correct the gray card, your artwork should be close to the actual colors too. Apply those same corrections to the image of just your artwork without the gray card in it. If you did not have a gray card in the shot you could use your actual painting, or other object that was in the scene, and put it next to your monitor and try to match it as closely as possible with your imaging software. Just be aware that it's impossible to exactly match every pigment color in a painting with colors that even a very expensive recently calibrated monitor can produce. (Standard gray cards are usually dependable for correct exposure, but the gray color could vary somewhat from absolute neutral. You can buy a precisely neutral gray reference card for about $80 which is about eight times the cost of a standard gray card.)
If you have questions about this, something else, or a suggestion about what you'd like to see in this "Info" section of our website, please email Ken Schuster
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