Photographing Artwork

Sibila in StudioOne of the steps I’m taking as an artist is putting together a portfolio to represent my work.  The most important element in the portfolio is excellent images. I’ve learned that how well your work is photographed can be the determining factor in whether or not your work is juried into a show.

Until recently, I’ve taken all photographs of my work myself.  This has been fine for sharing snapshots and even for blogging about my work, but images for submission really need to be of the best quality possible.  I’ve taken a few workshops on how to photograph quilts, but have limited space and poor lighting.  

As a freelance technical editor, I’ve worked with the photographer at C&T Publishing producing “how-to” shots for quilting books.  This experience has given me an appreciation for what it takes to get a good photo and also the realization that this is not something I can do myself.   Therefore, it was time to call in the professionals.  I asked around and was referred to Sibila Savage.  Her studio is in Emeryville, CA, about 45 minutes from my home, and she specializes in photographing artwork.  Perfect!

So far we’ve had three sessions to photograph my work.  Some pieces were straightforward, and others posed technical challenges.  Here’s an example of the difference between my best effort and how the pros do it.  This is a large piece, approximately 70″ x 58″ installed. The “before” shot was taken by me without a tripod in the poorly lit hallway at the Origins show back in Aug 2013. The “after” shot was taken in a photography studio, with excellent lighting, and a tripod by an experienced photographer. Big difference.  The color is correct and lighting even.

Before and After

Here’s an example of a piece that was particularly challenging to photograph.  I photographed this piece myself in one the windows at the UC Berkeley Art and Design Center in San Francisco and showed it in one of my recent blog posts.  It looked great and served my purpose to share it with people following my progress. I love how the photo shows the piece in this particular spot.

window installation But for the portfolio, I wanted to show how the piece could look installed floating in a gallery space.  I think we spent about a hour and a half to get a good photograph, first against a white background where it didn’t show up well and then against a gray background, and spending a lot of time getting the lighting just right.  The final result: ethereal, floating, fabulous!


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