Art on a Budget: Photographing Traditional 2-D Art

Access to high quality cameras and large bed scanners can be pricey and difficult to achieve for many artists, especially students. Luckily, we live in an age where even phone cameras have a high enough quality to capture traditional media nicely. Below are some tips for photographing 2-D traditional media.

When photographing two dimensional art, you will want to hang the piece on a wall or prop it on an easel to avoid unwanted shadows. You will want to put your phone or camera on a tripod to hold your camera still. This will also ensure you can line the camera up to the same angle as the artwork and avoid having to tilt and crop the image later.

You can find phone tripods at Walmart for under $15

Match the angle of the tripod to the angle of the art surface.

The next crucial step is finding the correct lighting. If you are using and indoor space, you will need 2 light sources set up at 45 degree angles to eliminate shadows, uneven lighting across the canvas, and still capture any texture on the surface. When using indoor lighting, two posable desk lamps should do the trick. I highly recommend “daylight” or “natural” light bulbs to avoid adding cool or warm tones to the piece.

Lighting setup for indoor shooting.

However, there is a more cost-effective method of lighting two dimensional art: use natural lighting! Going outside costs nothing and helps pick up the more authentic pigments in the piece. The slider below shows a comparison of natural light to traditional indoor lighting.

Slide left to see the image in natural light and right to see the image in artificial light.