Research: Alex Bell
If you were an artist in the olden days—you know, before Instagram, Twitter, and prepackaged airplane peanuts—patrons could waltz right into your studio and see the art they wanted to buy firsthand. That still happens, of course, but now it’s more convenient to post or send a photo.
So what do you do? Hire a photographer and snap some pictures? Take a photography class and go the DIY route? Those are both great starting steps toward solving your long distance art-selling dilemma, but modern marketing practices demand a little more from artists these days. If you really want to stand out, you’re going to need next-level marketing strategies.
That means showing patrons you’re a living, breathing human being whose art is living and breathing, too. Give them a taste of all the things they usually don’t get to see with work-in-progress shots and up-close details.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the arrangement and positioning of your painting within a photo. For technical tips on photographing your art, take a look at The Quick and Easy Guide to Photographing Your Artwork.
1. Look at the whole thing
If you can only take one photo of your work, this is the one. It’s a fairly straightforward shot that helps potential buyers get a complete sense of the finished piece. You’ll want to leave little to no space around the edges of the piece, but don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. You’ll go in and crop later. For now, just remember to keep your camera at a 90 degree angle to the floor (use a tripod!) and the edges of your painting parallel to the wall, or you’ll end up cropping part of your piece out of the final picture.
2. Give ‘em some detail
Show clients your incredible talent by going in for a close-up. Pick a point of interest (or several) and zoom in on it, remembering that the area you pick should showcase your masterful use of technique, or an important detail that might be hard to see from far away.
3. Show your work
We know you’re in a rush to finish that next painting, but slow down a minute and pull out your camera before the final brushstroke.
You’ll want to take work-in-progress shots when it’s clear the end is in sight, while leaving enough undone to let your client’s imagination run away with them a bit. Use a tripod and set your camera’s timer so you can get in the shot. Work-in-progress photos are most effective when you’re actually working in them.
We understand you might be feeling a little camera-shy, but try to look at this as an opportunity to show the world all the passion that goes into your work. The hand-crafted vibe in these kind of shots also helps clients understand your work is worth the price you’re asking.
4. The art… and the artist
Unlike the work-in-progress shot, your piece should be fully finished here. Be brave and jump in the shot with your painting, but don’t hog the spotlight. Stand to one side and let your work bask in the limelight. Your expression and body language should convey pride, confidence, or joy. Figure out which emotion you’re comfortable with and do it your own way, just remember to keep it positive.
5. Get a little edgy
The side shot isn’t one that artists think about much, and while it’s not the most important one you’ll ever take, it can give buyers a real-world sense of the piece. It will also give them an idea of how it will look on their wall and if it needs to be framed.
Canvases that are gallery wrapped (measuring at least one inch in depth all the way around) can work especially well for this kind of shot.
6. Use your living room
You’ve probably seen websites that offer an option to preview art in a simulated living space. While we love the idea of showing potential buyers, the preset wall spaces look pretty fake, like a generic template.
To get around that, just use your own living room, or a friend’s. Use a straight-on perspective and make sure there are no empty soda cans or napkins lying around. Leave any other art or competing objects out of frame, and remember: consistent lighting is key. Any odd shadows or yellow light will kill the photograph.
7. Don’t forget to get a testimonial
We know it might seem like an afterthought, but make sure you get a testimonial from every satisfied client—it’s an important part of boosting sales and establishing a solid reputation when you’re just starting out. Testimonials are also an excellent form of social proof, which is just a fancy way of saying that if one person likes your work, other people are more likely to dig it, too.
There are a couple different types of social proof, but for our purposes, we’re going to focus on getting the kind that’s most helpful to artists: the photo testimonial.
When you sell a piece, ask the buyer for a quote and a photo of your art hanging in their house or office. Remember: The photo is only effective if the buyer (or their friends or family) poses with your painting. Once you get that photo—voila! Instant social proof.
Sizing your images for social media and other websites
Once you’ve taken a few high-quality photos of your artwork, you may want to save copies in a few different sizes so they’ll look good on a variety of websites and social media platforms.
Here are a few dimensions to keep in mind:
Regular Photos: 720 pixels, 960 pixels or 2048 pixels wide
Cover Photos: 851 pixels by 315 pixels
Square Image: 1080 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall
Vertical Image: 1080 pixels wide by 1350 pixels tall
Horizontal Image: 1080 pixels wide by 566 pixels tall
Profile Picture: 165 x 165
On the main page: 236 pixels wide (height is scaled).
On a board: 236 pixels wide (height is scaled).
Expanded: Minimum width 600 pixels (height is scaled).
Profile Photo: 400 x 400
Header Photo: 1,500 x 500
Minimum: 440 x 220
Maximum: 1024 x 512 pixels.
Minimum: 400 pixels x 400 pixels
Good luck, artists, and be brave.