UART Tip #33: “Photography 101” with Bethany Fields

As artists, we want the photographs of our work to look as good as our paintings! We all have mobile cameras and they are a wonderful tool for sharing across social media. However, they do come with certain downfalls.

Have you ever taken a photograph with your mobile (or tablet) device and the texture and grain look much different than in real life? Is the color completely off? Are your marks standing out and not in a good way?


Take this example below. One was taken with my mobile iPhone. The other with my professional Nikon and a good lens. Can you guess which one is correct?

The one on the left is a much more accurate rendering of my painting. The one on the right is much harsher and brighter and the color is completely off!

Most mobile and tablet cameras auto-sharpen and auto-saturate photographs. Auto sharpening is a response to something called “camera shake” and an attempt by the manufacturer to help with user error. It’s basically a sharpening filter applied to your photograph that is hard to correct.

My iPhone camera is VERY sharp and also more saturated in color.

For regular photos of my daily life, this can be great! Who doesn’t like a bump in color in photos of their kids or a beautiful sunset?

For my paintings, I don’t want this at all! If you take a photo of your piece, and notice it looks far different than what your eye is seeing, it’s probably an auto- sharpening and saturation effect happening.

This is where a traditional standard lens and camera can help you. The sharpening effect doesn’t apply and you can choose your “depth of field” (areas that are soft focus) more accurately.

When I’m photographing in my studio, I choose a fairly shallow “depth of field” via my lens to take my photographs. This helps with accurately capturing the marks of your paintings.

For those camera folks out there: I take my photos in manual mode usually with a lens setting around 2.0. (wide open aperture). I set the aperture and then adjust my shutter speed and ISO (“film” speed) according to my aperture. For those wondering what all that just meant^ (ha) I would suggest you take your photographs in natural diffused lighting (in front of a large window with NO direct light) and if your camera has some kind of “portrait” mode – use that feature. You can also try to take your mobile photos using a portrait setting on your phone.

Sometimes this works to soften those harsh sharpening filters.

Portrait mode is usually a more shallow depth of field which makes the paintings appear like you see in person. Take several shots and also look to see if you can change the color temp in camera (if you don’t want to pull your photo into an editing program). It sounds complicated but you can do it!

Bethany Fields

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