Photographing Your Artist Books Checklist
How to Shoot and Edit Photographs of Your Artist Book: Step-by-Step
Before Shooting: Set Up Your Photo Shoot
- Shoot your photos indoors with a neutral gray or white background. Avoid black, wrinkled or patterned backgrounds. You can shoot outdoors, but only on cloudy days. Consider using a tripod. Get down low and shoot your books straight on to avoid strange angles.
- Shoot on a large tabletop, or other flat surface. You can even use the floor. Experiment to see if your piece looks better flat, head on, or propped up.
- Use a white or gray backdrop; cloth or paper. Make sure to iron out any wrinkles. Experiment depending on the size of your piece and structure of your piece. Do not use a black background. It is very difficult to shoot properly at home and many galleries frown on black backgrounds as the object always seems to be floating in space.
- You’ll need some lights. Two or three photo studio lights would be a good investment if you enter lots of shows. You can make do with three or four clamp shop lights (about $6 each at Home Depot). Clamp them to a door or a chair and use 100-watt equivalent, daylight LED bulbs.
- Set your camera’s white balance setting for whatever kind of light bulbs you will be using. Use the tungsten or incandescent setting if you are using regular household incandescent bulbs. Use the fluorescent setting if you are using fluorescent bulbs.
- Set your camera to the highest image quality setting possible. You’ll need a camera that is at least 8 megapixels or more to shoot high-resolution images.
- Older cameras can have a lot of noise. If you see a grainy look in solid color areas of your photos you have a noise problem. Choose either a higher quality setting or choose a better quality camera.
- Check to see if your computer monitor has a neutral color balance. Do the white areas in your photos look white on your monitor? If not, there are ways to correct or compensate for your monitor color. Research this depending on your monitor type and operating system.
After Shooting: Edit Your Photos
- Save a copy of your original photograph before editing. You may not like the changes you have made and want to go back to the original. Use the Save As or Duplicate command, usually under the File menu in your image editing software to create a copy before you begin editing.
- Rotate your image to the correct vertical or horizontal format. Use the Image Rotation or Rotate command, usually under the Edit menu.
- Straighten the book in the image frame if necessary. Use the Perspective or Skew command in the Edit menu under Transform to straighten and align edges. Pull down Guides if necessary to help determine right angles. Use Lens Correction under the Filter menu if the edges of your square book appear curved instead of straight. Click here for more information about straightening.
- Crop your photo to get rid of excess background. But, leave enough background to give your book some room to breathe. Don’t crop too tightly. Click here for a more information about cropping images.
- Color correct the overall color of your photo. Try your software’s automatic correction options and see how things look. Most of the time Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color commands will do wonders. If these don’t do the trick, try to find your software's individual options to correct color cast, brightness, saturation, etc. until the image most closely resembles the actual book.
- Neutralize the whites. If you make only one color correction to your image do whatever you can to achieve a neutral “white balance.” This means that the white areas of your image look white on your monitor or in print.- Check to see if your image is neutral using the Info command under the Window menu. A neutral image will have almost the same numbers for the R, G and B, (red, green and blue). Move your cursor around the image. When it lands on a part of your image that should be white the numbers should be very close to each other. For example, 242, 243 and 242 for R, G and B, respectively. You many not be able to get them exactly the same, but closer means less color cast. - Even if you have set your camera’s white balance setting you may find that your image still may not have exactly white whites or neutral grays. Some adjustment may still be necessary. - Remember, tungsten or incandescent light leaves an orange-ish-yellow cast across the entire image. Fluorescent lights may leave a green-ish cast. Usually the auto color commands discussed above will correct these casts. If not, research the Eye Dropper tools in your software to set the White Point or Gray Point of your image.
- Size images exactly as required by the show you are submitting to. How many inches or pixels are required for the height or width of your image? What should your resolution be? For images that will print, the resolution will need to be 300 ppi; for the web, 72 ppi (pixels per inch—sometimes used synonymously with dpi, or dots per inch). To change size or resolution, use the Image Size command under the Image menu. When keeping the size the same, but changing the resolution, uncheck Resample. When changing the size, if you want to keep the same resolution, check Resample. Click here for more info on sizing images.
- Sharpen. Almost all digital images benefit from some sharpening in your photo editing software. Don’t try to sharpen an image that is out of focus. That never works. Reshoot instead. Play with the Sharpen commands under the Filter menu to achieve your desired level of sharpening. Look for sharp words or letters or page edges. Over-sharpened edges will have a white “halo” around a high-contrast edge (for example, type or letters). Click here for more info on sharpening.
- Name Your Files as requested. Here at 23 Sandy we always need your images to be named as, “yourlastname-1-a.jpg” etc. Your last name is followed by the artwork number, which corresponds with the entry number on the online entry form. The a, b, or c letter are the additional views of that work. Follow the requirements for each different show exactly. Otherwise, you images might get lost.
For best results the steps to editing a photo should be followed in the order listed above. This article assumes you have some working knowledge of your camera and your image editing software. This article uses the commands for Photoshop (in italic). Any image editing software will have similar commands, but possibly with different names. Reference your software manual for more details.