Photographing Paintings in frames – Glare

Can I take high resolution photos of my paintings still in the frame?

It is going to be difficult and will take a lot of effort. When people take their paintings to be framed by a pro framing shop they expect permanent results. Most put the paper on the back to stabilize humidity and prevent dust. So rule 1, have your painting professionally scanned or photographed before framing, duh!

If you want to enter your paintings in a competition you want the best results. The cost for having your work professionally scanned depends on the size of course, often around $50+ at the highest quality/ highest resolution (high res). Those places will require you to remove the frame. Back to the question, can I leave them in the frame?

But first: Do you really need high res photos of your art? You always want perfect color correctness, clear focus, and you don’t want any GLARE in the image.  To put a photo on your web site you do not need high res. Web images are a tiny size (600×800 pix) and they will still look great on a computer screen. If you are going to print them on Giclée paper to sell, you want the best image for the best results (remove the frames).  

OK, you still don’t want to remove the frame and will accept less than perfect quality.

Are you going to use your phone as a camera?  Rule 2, use the best camera you have. Rule 3, you must have a CLEAN LENS. My bugaboo is seeing all these memorable photos of special occasions and they are all cloudy and smeary. CLEAN YOUR LENS!

Let’s practice a bit. Take any small framed picture in your house. Move it around and look at the glass. See if you can find an angle or location where you don’t see any reflected glare. You will quickly see you probably have to take the photos in a darken room so the painting is not angled at anything light. One thing to try is you might hang something black above or to the side so you eliminate any reflected light shapes. The problem is this may block ambient light…

Get your painting ready, lens cleaned, and using a tripod is of course preferred, and click away.  

If you can’t get a straight on shot your image will not have parallel sides. It will be more trapezoid shaped. If you have Photoshop or some other software with “perspective” correction this is easily corrected. You need to measure the exact dimension of your framed painting. I like to start at the outer edge of the frame. You will crop to that dimension and let the software make the adjustments. Then you can crop again to the image size.

One more word of warning, if you have too much angle there is an issue with where the camera is focused, the near edge or the far edge of the painting. Also don’t be too close to the painting. You will get a bulging effect (fish-eye lens effect) when you are too close and the lens is set more for wide angle. With my camera lens I move back about 6′ – 8’ away and zoom in to about 80mm on the lens. Take many photos and check close for the best focus.

If you can remove the frames check out my article “How to take quality photos of your paintings” Photographing your paintings – Giclee prints and ordering online

Good luck, Bill

Updated: 21 Aug 20, updated and combined 3 articles on photographing paintings. 17 Aug 18 reviewed, 15 Apr 18, thanks for the question Mandy