If you want to rank high in a juror’s eyes and leverage all your hard work making that art, you must have decent photographs of your work.

DO have the art in focus. What looks OK on your cell phone may not look so good when enlarged onto a monitor or projection screen.

DO remove background clutter and crop to the artwork edges.

DO use good lighting. Bright but diffuse natural light is one option. A colored room will throw off the colors of your work, as will a deep blue sky or dim lighting.

DO use neutral uncluttered backdrop for 3D pieces.

DO size the digital file and title the file according to the application instructions.

DON’T include the frame or mat unless it is a critical part of your creative work. In most cases, the frame is interchangeable and not critical to the art.  Also, a frame can add undesirable shadows on your photo image.  It is best to get a good photograph BEFORE you add the frame.

DON’T shoot through glass, which almost always results in distracting glare. Get in the habit of photographing your work before it gets sealed behind glass.

DON’T use a photo that has unintentional specular highlights (ie. glare). How to avoid this is more than can be explained here, but experiment until you get it right.  Diffuse lighting helps.

DON’T shoot a 2D image crooked, skewed or other than direct and square from the front.

DON’T include yourself in a photo with your piece for formal submissions.

DON’T be afraid to hire a professional for your best pieces, or ask a skilled friend for help, if you can’t master this yourself.

REMEMBER, a good photo image, just like a good frame and presentation, says “This art has value” and can subliminally influence a potential collector or show juror.

Resizing Your Images

Many artist opportunities require specific image file sizes and dots-per-inch.  Here are some ideas on how to do this:

Mac Users:  You may already have Preview software loaded on your computer, which can resize your photos using the “Adjust Size” tool.

Windows Users:  (info pending)

Online services:  


Additional resources

Gurney Journey is a blog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney for illustrators, plein-air painters, art students, and others

Tom Schmidt’s presentation to Oil Painters of America

Will Kemp’s article on Photographing your Artwork with an iPhone

ArtsyShark article: “Avoid these 7 Mistakes when Photographing Art”

Artwork Archive: “4 Steps to Photographing Your Art Like a Professional”

National Portrait Gallery (UK) “How to Photograph Your Work”, which is specific to their competition, but has some good advice nonetheless