How to Exhibit Your Work at a CFA Micro Gallery
If you're not already a member of the Center for the Arts, you can join now at the Associate Artist level that is half of the lowest fee that other members pay.If you are a CFA member, just work up a proposal of what your solo or group exhibit would be (for example, a theme or just general work). 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.
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 coated with a specific shade of gray that reflects a specific amount of light 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 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 fairly 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 the exposure step 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 in the exposure step above, and take a couple of shots using the same exposure as in step 1 above. This image is only for color reference, and the gray card will be in the shot. That will be your reference for any color corrections you might need to make when using Photoshop, Lightroom or 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 grass that might be nearby. 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, try to avoid strong colors nearby like a red wall. (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 always will be gray. If it doesn't look gray when you view it in your imaging software, make whatever corrections you need for it to look gray. Apply those same corrections to the image of your artwork and it should look as close to the original as you're going to get with your computer monitor or screen. If you did not have a gray card in the shot you could use your 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.
Many of today's digital cameras will let you correct for the color of light right in the camera itself. That's called setting the camera's white balance. The video below (or here if you don't see it in your browser) will show you how to do that. More importantly, whether or not you have set the white balance in your camera, the video also will show you how to use your imaging software such as Lightroom to correct the color of an image when a gray card is in the shot (as I recommended above).
NOTE: Even with today's incredible technology, what you see on your monitor won't be a perfect match of your art's colors, but you can get close if you do it right. Use a gray card.