How to Photograph a Painting

Capturing the beauty of a painting in a photograph is a quick and easy process. For best results, take the painting out of the frame, place it on a blank wall, and then place your camera and tripod in front of the painting. Optimise your camera for the shot and then use the timer to take the shot. These methods are appropriate for all kinds of paintings, including water-colour, oil, and acrylic. Use your beautiful photographs for websites, fliers, or for your own memories.

EditSetting up for the Shot
Remove the painting from the frame, if possible. The glass or perspex in frames causes reflections and glare in photographs. This can make it difficult to see the details and colours in your painting. Place your frame in a safe place whilst you take the shot to ensure that the photo gives the truest representation of the painting.[1]
If possible, wait until after you have photographed your painting to varnish it, as varnish also creates reflections and glare. If your painting is already varnished, simply follow the rest of the steps to optimise the quality of the photo.

If you are unable to remove the painting from the frame, follow the rest of the steps to minimise the glare.

Place your art on a blank wall to photograph it. A blank background helps to make the painting the central focus of the photograph. Place sticky-tak on the back corners of your art and stick it on the wall. Try to make it as straight as you can so that it looks even in the photographs.[2]
If you don’t have any stick-tak, place a large piece of white board or cardstock onto an easel and then lean the painting on top of it.

If you are having trouble getting your painting straight, use a bubble level to help get it even.[3]

Put your camera on a tripod. This is one of the best ways to ensure that the photographs are of high quality, as photos lose a bit of resolution when they are taken by hand due to the slight movement that occurs. Attach the camera to a tripod to ensure the camera is perfectly still when you take the picture.[4]
If you don’t have a tripod, use a stack of books or boxes instead. Ensure that they are really stable so that you don’t risk your camera falling off. This is also a great option if you are taking the photo on your smartphone.

Align the camera so that the painting fills 90% of the viewfinder. It is important that the photograph is in the middle of the viewfinder, otherwise, the photo may not show the painting proportionately or accurately to scale. Position the tripod and camera in the middle of the painting and then move them back until the painting fills about 90% of the screen.[5]
Avoid leaving too much blank space in the photograph, as this makes the painting harder to see and will reduce the resolution of the image if you have to crop it later.

If your painting has a portrait layout, you will need to rotate your camera 90 degrees in order for the painting to fill 90% of the screen.

EditUsing the Best Settings to Take the Shot
Set your camera to the f8 aperture setting. A higher aperture, such as f8, creates a smaller depth of focus which makes the image look clear and detailed. Move the wheel next to the shutter button to the f8 position. This wheel will generally have “+” and “-” buttons beside it. Look through the viewfinder or on the screen to check the aperture number. The number will change as you move the aperture wheel.[6]
If your camera won’t let you change the aperture, ensure that the camera is on the manual setting. Do this by rotating the dial on the top of your camera to the “m” position.

If you are taking the photo on a smartphone, tap the painting on the screen to auto-focus the image. This has a similar effect increasing the aperture settings.

Adjust your ISO to 100. The ISO affects how much light is in your photo. Higher ISO levels create bright photos and low ISO levels create dark photos. An ISO of 100 is generally appropriate for photographs taken inside or in studios on cloudy days. Use the ISO settings to change the ISO to 100.[7]
If you are taking the photo in a dark room, increase the ISO level. If you are in a really bright room, decrease the ISO level. Experiment with different levels until your photos reflect how the painting looks in real life.

Read your cameras instructions manual if you are having difficulty locating your ISO settings, as they vary between cameras.

If you are using a smartphone, tap on the painting on your screen. This automatically sets the camera to the correct ISO level and can help to minimise the glare in the photo.

Take the photo indoors in a room with windows on a cloudy day, if possible. Cloudy days reduce the amount of glare and gives even, natural lighting. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight as this can cause the camera to capture the colours in your painting inaccurately. If possible, shoot the photos in the middle of the day to avoid the shadows that come with the low light in the evenings and mornings.[8]
If you have to photograph a painting in a room that doesn’t have windows, leave the ceiling lights on and position extra lights under the painting at a 45-degree angle to avoid as much glare as possible.

Whilst it is preferable to photograph paintings with natural light, if you are taking a picture at a museum, simply take the photo with the existing lighting.

Adjust the white balance settings on your camera to the cloudy mode. The white balance affects the colour temperature of your image. If it is on the wrong setting, your image may look too orange or too blue. If you are shooting on a cloudy day, set the camera to the cloudy option in the camera settings.[9]
If you are shooting with artificial light, use the studio or inside option.

If you are taking the photo with your smartphone, the camera will most likely automatically adjust the white balance for you.

Turn off the flash. A flash will overexpose the colours of your painting and will make it difficult to see the details in the image. Hold down the flash mechanism to stop it from popping up or turn the flash off in the camera settings.[10]
If the camera displays any warnings about low-light, simply ignore them and leave the flash off.

If you are using a smartphone, either turn off the flash in the camera settings or hold your finger over the flash to block it from hitting the painting. This helps to minimise the glare in your smartphone image.

Set the camera to auto-focus. Auto-focus is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get a clear and glare-free image. Adjust the camera to auto-focus in the camera settings. This gives the camera permission to chose the best depth of focus for the shot, which helps to avoid fuzzy pictures.[11]
If you are using a smartphone, the auto-focus setting will already be operating.

Take the photo with a self-timer to make the shot perfectly still. The motion of pushing down the shutter button can slightly shake the camera and make the image a little fuzzy. For optimal image quality, place the camera on self-timer mode in the camera settings. This will cause it to take a photo by itself after the specified time.[12]
Set the self-timer for at least 3 seconds to give it a chance to stop wobbling after you have touched it.

Don’t take photographs in museums if there are signs warning against it. Breaking the rules can result in fines or penalties.

Check your photo once you have taken it to make sure that you are happy with it.

For professional shots, place LED lights on the ground on either side of painting and point them towards the art at a 45-degree angle. This helps to accentuate the 3D nature of the painting.[13]
Any lens can be used to take the photo; however, the lenses on DSLR cameras will tend to take higher quality photos than smartphone lenses.[14]
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Today in History for 24th April 2019

Historical Events

1867 – Black demonstrators stage ride-ins on Richmond, Virginia streetcars
1905 – First-class cricket debut of Sir Jack Hobbs, “The Master” for Surrey v the “Gentlemen of England” (18 and 88)
1965 – “Comedy in Music-Opus 2” closes at John Golden NYC after 192 performances
1968 – Leftist students take over Columbia University, NYC
1981 – Bill Shoemaker wins his 8,000th race, 2000 more than any other jockey
1982 – 150 Khomeini followers assault student dormitory in West Germany

More Historical Events »

Famous Birthdays

1791 – Nikolaj Bestuzhev, Russian Navy officer, writer and painter (Decembrist revolt), born in Saint Petersburg (d. 1855)
1951 – Andrew John Fairclough, trade union educator
1953 – Porter Carroll Jr, drummer (Atlantic Star-Touch a 4 Leaf Clover)
1958 – Valery Lantratov, Russian ballet dancer, born in Moscow
1967 – Omar Vizquel, Venezuelan shortstop (Seattle Mariners, Indians), born in Caracas
1975 – Michael Stewart, American basketball NBA center (Sacramento Kings), born in Cucq-Trepied-Stella-Plage, France

More Famous Birthdays »

Famous Deaths

1776 – Giuseppi Paolucci, composer, dies at 49
1852 – Vasily Zhukovsky, Russian poet (b. 1783)
1933 – Felix Adler, German-American educator of political and social ethics, dies at 81
1936 – Finley Peter Dunne, American journalist and humorist (Mr Dooley), dies at 68
1942 – Leonid Kulik, Russian Minerologist who led the first research expedition to study the Tunguska meteor site, the largest impact event in recorded history, dies of typhus in a Nazi prison camp at 58
1959 – Jef van Hoof, Flemish composer, dies at 72

More Famous Deaths »

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How to Overcome the Freeze Response

The freeze response is a natural reaction to extremely frightening or traumatic situations. If you have PTSD or have experienced some sort of trauma in the past, any situation that reminds you of your trauma may trigger the freeze response. If you find yourself freezing, taking some deep breaths and paying attention to your physical sensations and surroundings can help. While you can’t completely prevent the freeze response, there are steps you can take to make it a little less likely, such as practicing relaxation techniques while you are calm. Getting professional therapy can also be helpful.

EditComing Out of the Freeze Response
Take a few deep breaths. If you are frozen or feel yourself going into a freeze, taking a few deep breaths can help you interrupt the freeze response and regain control.[1] As soon as you begin to feel frightened, try to force yourself to take 3 or 4 slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
You may find it helpful to count to 5 with each breath. Inhale for 5 counts, hold the breath in your lungs for another 5 counts, then count to 5 again as you exhale.[2]

Pay attention to the physical sensations you’re experiencing. Being mindful of what you’re feeling physically can help you break out of a freeze response.[3] If you find yourself frozen, try to focus on your senses. Notice the sensations that you feel both inside and outside of your body.
For example, you might notice that you feel tension in your arms and shoulders or that you are holding your breath.

Pay attention to things that you see, hear, feel, and smell in your environment, such as the sensation of the ground under your feet or the feeling of the air on your skin.

Release your fight-or-flight energy by making deliberate movements. As you begin to break out of the freeze response, your fight-or-flight response may begin to kick in. If this happens, taking action or making a movement can help you feel calmer.[4]
For example, you might calm yourself down by pacing, running in place, stomping your feet, or even punching a pillow.

EditPreventing the Freeze Response
Practice grounding techniques while you are calm. Grounding techniques help you connect with your senses so that you can stay present instead of freezing in moments of fear or stress. If you practice these techniques when you feel calm and safe, you can access those skills more easily when things get difficult.[5] Some examples of simple grounding exercise include:[6]
Mentally reminding yourself of who and where you are and what you are about to do. For example, you might say to yourself, “I’m Samantha Jones. I’m 27 years old. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. I’m about to get up and get a glass of water.”

Taking 10 slow breaths while focusing on the sensation of each inhalation and exhalation.

Holding an object in your hands, such as a cold drink can or a set of car keys, and focusing on how it feels.

Eating or drinking something, focusing on the tastes, smells, and other sensations you experience as you eat or drink.

Try relaxation techniques to help yourself stay calm and present. Learning how to engage your mind and body’s relaxation responses can also help you prepare for frightening and stressful moments.[7] Try to spend a few minutes every day practicing relaxation techniques, such as:
Breathing exercises



Progressive muscle relaxation

Learn to recognize the signs that you are about to freeze. If you experience the freeze response frequently, learning to recognize the warning signs may help you stop a freeze before it begins. Think about the way you usually feel before and during a freeze response. Common freeze response sensations and symptoms include:[8]
Feeling numb, cold, or frozen

A sensation of physical heaviness or stiffness

A feeling of being trapped inside yourself or in some part of your body

Slow breathing or holding your breath

Changes in your heart rate (e.g., your heart may feel slow or it might pound rapidly)

Be patient with yourself. The freeze response is natural, and it’s not entirely preventable. If you freeze in a frightening or stressful situation despite all your efforts to prepare for that possibility, don’t blame yourself. Remind yourself that it is an involuntary reaction and not something that is within your control.[9]
The freeze response is not a sign of weakness or cowardice. It’s something that even highly trained emergency first responders and military personnel struggle with.[10]

EditGetting Professional Help
Find a therapist with experience treating issues related to trauma. The freeze response is often a symptom of PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.[11] If you struggle with freezing up in stressful or frightening situations, ask your doctor to recommend a therapist who has experience treating this issue. Some common therapeutic approaches include
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you change the thought processes that may trigger a freeze response.[12]
Sensorimotor psychotherapy, which focuses on dealing with the sensory and physical elements of trauma as well as the emotional and psychological ones.[13]
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a common treatment for complex PTSD and includes coping skills training as well as some CBT techniques.

Work on dealing with any underlying past trauma. If you had a traumatic experience in the past, it may be contributing to your tendency to freeze. Work with a therapist to identify your past trauma so that you can work through it and understand how it might be contributing to the way you react to fear or stress in the present.[14]
For example, if you grew up with an abusive relative, you may find yourself freezing if another person raises their voice or gets too close to you during an argument. A therapist can help you understand how the abuse in your past contributes to this reaction and help you figure out some healthy coping strategies.

Look into support groups for people with similar experiences. If your freeze response is related to trauma that you’ve experienced, joining a support group can help you feel less alone. Other members of the group may also be able to offer advice and share strategies that have helped them deal with the freeze response. Ask your doctor or therapist to recommend a group, or do an online search for support groups in your area.
Some support groups are peer-led, while others are moderated by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker.

You can also join online support groups or discussion boards, like the forums at Psych Central. Look for a group that is overseen by administrators or moderators who can monitor the group for abusive or inappropriate activity.

EditRelated wikiHows
Identify Your Anxiety Triggers

Deal With Having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Deal With Emotional Triggers Effectively

Recognize the Signs of CPTSD

Overcome Social Anxiety

Deal with Hyperarousal Symptoms of PTSD

Know if You Have Anxiety

Control Anxiety

Stop Anxiety

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