How to Best Display Your Artwork for Contest Submissions
August 8, 2014
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Summer and fall art contests are coming up, and with that comes the stress of getting your submissions just right. Here's a quick guide on how to best present your artwork so it comes across perfectly in your submission.
The best way to get great images of your work, particularly drawings, paintings and other hand-crafted art, is to have it scanned professionally. This can be pricey, but the quality of low-cost office center scanners has improved significantly in recent years. Of course, you can only scan two-dimensional work, so if you have sculptures or other three-dimensional pieces, or if scanning is not an option for other reasons, you'll have to photograph your work.
Photos of art come out best when taken under bright, indirect light, such as outside on a cloudy day or inside near large windows on a sunny day. Direct sunlight, indoor lights and camera flashes will all create uneven light and a poor image. Flashes in particular tend to cause "hot spots," where the flash reflects too much and creates white spots.
If your work is on paper or a similar material, mount it on something rigid that can hang on a wall or be propped up on an easel. If possible, use a tripod, or rest the camera on a flat surface. The self-timer function on your camera will help keep the camera still by taking the photograph several seconds after you push the button — even the small motion of your finger pressing down can blur the image. For sculptures and installations, use a plain background to ensure your work is the only item of visual interest in the photograph.
Make sure that the surface of your artwork is perfectly parallel to the surface of the camera. It should line up well with the edges of the viewfinder. Take the photo with your art nearly filling the shot, but not entirely. You can always crop later.
Although this will vary based on the camera and lighting, ISO settings of 100 or 200 will usually work best. Try a variety of white balance settings (there are usually preset options such as "daylight" and "cloudy") to get the colors right, and alter the exposure if it looks too bright or dark. Most importantly, take a bunch of pictures with different settings. It can be hard to see whether a picture is good on the camera's small viewfinder, so taking multiple shots lets you choose the best image later.
Professional editing software such as Adobe Photoshop is great, but it is also expensive. If you do not have access to a high-end program, there are free options that will get the job done, such as Sumo Paint or Pixlr.
Whichever tool you use, start by saving a second copy of the image to work on — you should keep the original intact in case you make a mistake while editing. Next, crop the image. Frames look great on walls, but not so much in JPEG images. Hopefully, the original image was taken squarely, but if not, now is the time to correct any imperfections, such as nonparallel edges. Play with filters and color balance until the image looks the most like your original work. Or, simply tweak the image however you think looks best on the computer screen, but avoid over-editing.
Presenting your artwork in the best possible way will mean judges in competitions are looking at the closest thing to the actual original. Have you had any success in art competitions? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Photo credit: Flickr