Tips for Photographing Your Artwork for Submission

  • High-resolution/image size: Images should be 5000 pixels on the long side, as a minimum. To review your image’s size, most “post” processing programs (i.e., Photoshop) will provide a set of pixel dimensions when you click “Image Size” –– 5000 pixels by 3400 pixels is the minimum you should submit. Files should be at least 1 MB, but really should be larger. If possible, photograph using a RAW format (DSLRs usually have this option. NEF files for Nikon, CR2 for Canon, ARW for Sony, etc.) or JPEG files at the largest possible size, with the least compression.
  • Image Size: Photography submissions or images of artwork do not need to be a particular printed size. For example, your image does not need to print to an 8x10. It may be sized to print to any size: ex. 5x7, 10x10, 11x14, 6x10, 3x12 etc. 
  • Light: The first thing to look for when creating your image is soft, even light. A cloudy day outside or on the shady side of a building often works.
  • Background: Place the artwork on a solid background: A dark or white background works best (i.e., if you are photographing a dark object, place it on a light background and vice-versa). Other colors/shades can work fine as well, but be sure to avoid patterns. Do not include items in the room (furniture, background objects, etc.).
  • Zoom: To avoid distortion while taking the photo, it’s usually best to step back from the artwork and zoom in if using a digital, single-lens reflex camera (DSLR or “regular” camera). It is not recommended to zoom with a phone camera. It is best to crop after the phone image is taken. Never use “digital zoom” if you have that option. (In short, it’s a marketing gimmick, and it crops the image smaller.)
  • Camera settings: It is best to consult your camera information guide for information regarding using your specific equipment, but here are general points to consider:
    • Exposure refers to the iris in the camera lens opening or closing to allow in varying levels of light. The camera's aperture is measured in f-stops. In addition to managing the amount of light passing through the lens — leading to brighter or darker images — it controls depth of field. Depth of field is a technical term for how sharp or blurry objects appear beyond the object at the center of the camera’s focus. A recommended depth of field is f/8.
    • Shutter speed is represented by a fraction: 1/60, 1/400, etc. Using a slower shutter speed will show more blur in moving objects, and likewise using a higher shutter speed will freeze the action of a moving subject. Assuming your art item will be stationary, shutter speed is not a high concern when photographing. A suggested shutter speed is 1/125 or faster (1/250, 1/500, etc.).
    • ISO increases or decreases the brightness of a photograph, and it also affects both grain (aka noise levels) and dynamic range. At the lowest (base) ISO setting, your images will have the least amount of noise and the highest dynamic range, giving you the most flexibility in post-processing. As ISO is increased, noise levels increase and dynamic range typically decreases as well. The more light that’s required, the more likely a slow shutter speed will have to be used. That means low ISOs, like 100 or 200, are most often used in bright situations (like sunlight) or when the camera is mounted on a tripod. If you don’t have a lot of light, or need a fast shutter speed, you would probably raise the ISO. Generally speaking, using an ISO of 200-800 will work when creating your image for submission, and using a tripod is recommended.
  • File types: Visual submissions should be saved as JPEG, EPS, PDF, or PSD files (BMP, TIFF or ZIP files are not supported and will not be judged).
  • Small items: Small items must be photographed on a solid background such as a black or white matte background (ex. jewelry on a piece of non-shiny black felt or non-glossy white paper).
  • Blurry photos: will be disqualified.
  • Frames: As for framed artwork, we strongly prefer images that do NOT include frames. However, if your artwork is in a frame that provides some structure and safety for the artwork, the frame may be included in your photo, but it is strongly recommended that you remove the glass when photographing. Note: We most likely will crop out the frame for publication unless it is CLEARLY noted by the artist that the frame is actually “part of” the art.
  • Photos with people: The artist must possess, and agree to submit upon request, a signed photo release from the subject.
  • Images not sized correctly: will be disqualified.
  • Photo help: If you cannot provide a digital image which meets these parameters, or if you are unsure about your photo, email drampolla@umaryland.edu. Photography of art can be provided by UMB staff on a limited basis. If this service is needed, then art must be brought to the University for photographing by appointment only. [During COVID, requests may not be honored.]

Recommended: Consult this Nikon webpage or another photography website for other explanations of the above terms.