Scottish Arts Club Charitable Trust

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SPA | Scottish Portrait Awards Registered charity SC044753 | Registered office 24 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BW Photographing Artwork


1. It is important to use bright, soft lighting, preferably natural light from a large window or, if photographing outside, do so on a grey, overcast day.

2. Ideally put the camera on a tripod but if this is not possible, place it on a flat, level surface.  The work to be photographed should be parallel, either horizontally or vertically, to the camera lens. The centre of the lens should be pointing directly at the centre of the work.

3. You can include the frame in your photograph. However, if the work is glazed, we recommend removing the frame to avoid reflection. If this is not possible, try using a polarising filter.

4. Place your work against a neutral background, as plain and simple as possible leaving as small a space as possible around the frame. For larger works these should ideally be on an easel or propped against a flat wall. For smaller works it may be possible to lay it on the floor and take your photograph from overhead.

5. If the work is signed please cover the signature before taking the photograph to send with your entry for the awards. You should take and withhold a second photograph with the signature that may be used in the catalogue if your work is selected for the SPA exhibition. (See Hi-Res TIFF below.)

Taking the photo

6. Set the ISO in your camera to 150 or 200 depending on the model and make sure your clean the lens with a microfibre cloth.

7. Switch off the camera’s flash and any electric lights in the room. 
 Adjust the white balance in the camera to daylight.

8. Zoom in a little but not too much. (If using a smartphone or tablet, avoid zooming). Set the aperture to F8.  If the picture appears too dark or too light, use the dark/light compensation feature.  Colour and exposure should be as close as possible to the original artwork.

9. Use a self‐timer and cable release to take your photo, to ensure that the camera is still for the exposure.

10. If your camera is on a tripod, make sure you turn off the image stabilisation or vibration reduction setting to ensure maximum sharpness to the image.

11. To maximise the image resolution, leave only the smallest of margins around the work (you may want to crop this out later). The edges of the work must remain parallel to the camera frame.

12. Make sure the work is in focus. If the shot appears blurry then the camera has moved or has not been stabilized sufficiently.

13. Take several shots and keep checking your images so that you can make adjustments. Check that the image is sharp and faithful to the artwork. 

Preparing your entry

14.  Review the image using either Picasa (Windows) or iPhoto (Apple).  You may also use Adobe Photoshop or similar software but do not apply features that make the photo look different from the original.  Use the cropping tools and double-check the borders. Do not overdo the contrast or, indeed, any part of the editing process. The picture must be as near to the original as you can get it.

15.  Zoom in 100% and look over each part of the picture carefully, using the retouching tool as necessary.

16.  Save two images of the photo:

 (a) As a hi-res TIFF image that you will keep in case your work is selected for exhibition – do not send this image unless it is requested. The hi-res TIFF image should be at least 350dpi and 4800 pixels on the shortest side.

 (b) As a lower-res JPG/JPEG image that you will send with the entry form. This image should be no greater than 3 MB, 72DPI and at least 1,500 pixels on its longest side.

Keith Byres, Kontro ogni barriera

Jenny Leask, Mark