How to Photograph a Painting

Originally published on My Patreon.

INTRODUCTION
This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time but kept on putting on the back burner. The reason for that is the subject matter – it is really boring. Believe me when I say that I’d much rather be throwing paint around than thinking about f stops and gn numbers!
However, more people ask me technical questions about how I photograph my paintings than just about anything else so I figured that I’d bite the bullet and get something down on virtual paper.
This is in three parts, the first is intended for those who already own the hardware and just want a recipe i.e. the settings and who do not require the underpinning logic, the third is a deeper dive and the second falls somewhere between the two.

VERY SHORT VERSION
Use a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
ISO 100
Aperture: f8
Shutter speed: Flash Synch for Camera (usually around 1/200s)
Painting on an easel, wall or table leaning against a wall.
Flash: External unit mounted on horseshoe, pointed straight up at ceiling.
Flash Setting: Manual, 1/1 or 1/2 power
Adjust the flash settings to get correct exposure.
If flash is not powerful enough raise ISO
Shoot hand held no tripod (or in-camera image stabilization for that matter) required.
Keep camera sensor parallel to the painting being photographed.
Crop, color correct etc., in Adobe Lightroom on desktop or laptop computer.
Continue reading

My Shiny New Patreon

What is this Patreon thing?

Patreon is basically a platform that allows creators to accept subscriptions and donations. It allows users (me in this case) to put up content that is available for free or that has to be paid for, either on a item-by-item basis or by monthly subscription.

How I intend to use it

I will be offering high quality files of many of my paintings exclusively on Patreon. These images will be offered under a creative commons zero (CC0) license meaning that they can be used for just about any purpose, commercial or personal, and without attribution back to me. Access to everything will be $2 per month. I am committed to producing at least 15 high quality abstract paintings a month that will be available only on the Patreon site. I will, however, be producing a lot more than that along with different types of content. The exact type and quantity will vary depending on what I’ve got on in any given month.

What has the video at the top got to do with anything?

Good question. Firstly, I spent a big chunk of yesterday streamlining my digital art to video workflow and this is the first one off the production line so to speak. Secondly it provides a good illustration of how I intend to use the Patreon. The video itself is available to watch whether they subscribe or not while the finished work, a very large, high quality, cc0 licensed, 6k x 4k pixel file is only available my subscribers on Patreon.

Where is this Patreon thing to be found?

https://www.patreon.com/stevejohnson

Any Other Changes?

Nothing substantial. I’ll still be posting here occasionally and will still be uploading high quality cc0 images of my artwork to Pexels. Also the 400 or so existing images on that site won’t be going anywhere. The whole subscription thing is very much in addition to everything else as opposed to instead of something. It is a potential income for me and it provides images that are not likely to be all over the internet. Just for reference my images are on at least 30k websites and over a million hard drives. I’m hoping that means that there is a subscription based market for something a little more exclusive.

Anyway please check it out my Patreon and make me happy 🙂

Recent Studies

These are quick experiments; tests of both visual ideas and materials. They were not made for selling. They are all small, around 10″ x 8″ in size on unstretched canvas. The media used include (very cheap) acrylic paint, rubbing alcohol. oil pastels, spackle etc. Some of the images are pretty accurate colorwise but some have been adjusted using software (Adobe Lightroom).

I have put all of these up on Pexels and Unsplash so if you can use them for a project please feel free to do so. They are all under Creative Commons License Zero CC(0) and can be used for any purpose with or without attribution.

Better Than Expected.

This post is an update to the first post on this blog Trying Something New. That post outlined a plan designed to raise the profile of my art and to make my art as useful as possible to others. I wanted to build something that was a win/win for everyone. I would recommend reading the first post then using the link at the bottom to return to this one. It will make a whole lot more sense that way!

The title of this post is a huge understatement to say the least. Allowing high resolution photographs of my paintings via third party websites was the best thing I could have done. My images are currently being downloaded approximately four thousand times a day. As far as I can work out, around two thirds of those downloads are photographs of my paintings and one third are other photographs that I’ve shot. This level of exposure fulfills two of my aims straight off the bat. Firstly, it is getting my work in front of more people than I could have ever wished for, and secondly, I am providing the resource that I wanted to provide in return for all the free stuff that I have made use of over the years.

On the financial side of things I am certainly not getting rich off of this project but things are going pretty well. It is only around five months in and I am already more than covering the cost of my materials (and I use a lot of materials). The income comes in three forms, donations, sale of original works, and direct approaches from others who want exclusive work for print runs etc. The donations and sales are nice but it is the third stream, the commissioned work that is shaping up to be the main source of revenue.

A potential problem with my plan is that it is dependent upon my continued good fortune on the only two websites, Pexels and Unsplash, where my images can be downloaded from. A change of policy, increase in competition, or any number of other things could affect me all to easily. Setting up my own infrastructure to do this just wouldn’t work as it would be impossible to get the number of visitors required. I am currently looking into ways of increasing the number of baskets to put my eggs into, so to speak. It is worth noting though, that even if Pexels and Unsplash went belly up tomorrow, close to half a million of my images would be on people’s and corporation’s hard drives. websites and walls. Unlike social media with its half life measured in hours if not minutes, there will be a large residual benefit. Of course, I am not expecting these websites to suddenly cease to exist or to change things so drastically that I cannot use them anymore. If anything the opposite is the case as they have both proven to be excellent operations and appear to have genuine respect for the people who provide their content.

I’m pretty happy with the way things are going to put it mildly and hope that things are still going as well in five month’s time. Either way, I’ll report back here in due course. Thanks for reading and if you want high res versions of any of my paintings (there are dozens more than appear on this website) go to either of the websites mentioned above.

Digital Painting

A couple of weeks back I bought a shiny new Android tablet with the intention of getting to grips with digital painting. To cut a long story short I am now completely addicted to the process. The fruits of my labor so far can be seen here along with some more thoughts. As with all digital versions of my work on this website it is released under a CC0 license meaning that it can be used for more or less any purpose and that no attribution is required.

Trying something new

Trying something new in art
Trying something new

I have a couple of very simple aims in life. I want to be able to spend as much time doing what I love and that is working with the visual arts. I also want to provide some value for others that they don’t have to pay for. Over the years I have used and made money off of a lot of resources that others have been kind enough to offer for free. I figure that it is now my turn to return that favor to the universe.  To that end I’m trying something new with regard to marketing my art.

The framework that I’ve put in place is a very simple one. I will continue to sell my paintings (the originals) as normal but I am now giving away high resolution, high quality, image files that anyone can do more or less what they like with. No attribution back to me is required and uses can be personal or commercial. Of course I benefit from this in terms of extra publicity and a whole lot of free advertising. In other words, it is a win win.

This approach hasn’t been possible until recently because the platforms to give away free images in large quantities were just not available. This may sound odd but is not that easy to give away stuff online. Those platforms are now available and I place high resolution versions of my art on a couple of them. The one I recommend for downloading my work is Pexels (the link goes directly to my page) as they have a donation button where the proceeds go to the photographer. Of course these donations are purely voluntary but I am not too proud to admit that I am grateful for every one that I receive. Anything that offsets the cost of materials is a bonus.

I have a very good feeling about this plan but of course there are no guarantees. Either way I’ll report back here from time to time with updates of my progress.

Update: Better Than Expected