Photographing your artwork: Do’s and don’ts

Thank you for your interest in entering the Georges River Art Prize 2019.

The Georges River Art Prize showcases a range of the finest paintings and sculptures produced from artists nationwide as well as allowing emerging and established local artists a platform to display their works. This guide will help refine your application and prevent some of the common hurdles that arise when judging applications.

One of the key aspects of your application is submitting photographs of your artwork. To have a photograph that doesn’t accurately depict your artwork because it is too small, dark, bright or out of focus is a disservice to the time you spent refining your skill and creating your piece.

To troubleshoot the common issues when photographing artwork follow these tips:

  • To start make sure you have access to a good digital camera. Many digital cameras have automatic settings which will make taking your photographs much easier as it will generally have good autofocus and correct any colour balance issues ensuring the photograph is not too dark or white.
  • Pay careful attention to the way you position your artwork, making sure that it is on a levelled surface and that the way you’re aiming the camera is not going to make the artwork appear distorted or elongated. If possible, hang your artwork at a height where the middle of the piece will be parallel to the camera. If your artwork needs to be propped up against the wall and is on a slant, tilt your camera so that it matches this angle.

GRAP 1    X

  • Ensure your artwork fills the majority of the frame with very little background visible, however, ensure that the edge of the painting is seen to give judges a sense of scale.

GRAP 2  tick

  • Place close attention to the lighting as this will have a significant effect on your photograph. Natural indirect light is best and make sure there are no shadows or reflections across your artwork.

GRAP 3     X

GRAP 4    X

  • Avoid using flash where possible as this can often counter intuitively highlight the wrong areas of your artwork and cause a reflection with some mediums.
  • Clean your camera lens as any dust can interfere with your camera’s autofocus function.
  • Take numerous photos and then select the best to attach to your application.
  • Choose a neutral plain background. You can achieve this by placing your artwork in front of a wall or creating your own backdrop with a large piece of paper/cardboard.

Photographing sculptural 3D artworks

Many of the previous points apply when also photographing 3D artworks, however there can be added difficulties as you want to convey the depth and material of your work. Follow these steps to help overcome these obstacles.

  • Place your artwork in front of a neutral background. You can achieve this by placing your artwork on a table pushed up against a wall or creating your own backdrop with a large piece of white paper/cardboard. The paper can be stuck on the wall with tape and the paper curved down to avoid a harsh horizontal line in the background. The aim is create a background with minimal distractions. This can be done on the floor if your artwork is too large to photograph on a table.
GRAP 5.jpg

Example of a creating a neutral background

  • Be aware of the lighting/shadows your artwork creates. Use lighting/shadow to your benefit. Some shadow may be helpful in giving a sense of depth to your artwork while lighting can also highlight the materials and texture of your work.

We hope this guide has been helpful and we wish you all the best with your application.

Further reading:

‘How to photograph a painting or two dimensional work’, Museums and Galleries of NSW,


‘4 Steps to photograph your artwork like a professional’, Artwork archive,

‘How to take great photographs of your artwork’, Agora Gallery,

Opp, Jeffrey, ‘How to photograph ceramics and 3-dimensional products with one light’, Envato tuts+,–cms-22924

Featured image: Scarborough Park, Steve Lopes. 2017 Georges River Art Prize Local Artist Prize Winner.

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