Framing is a visual business, and if you want to impress existing customers and win new ones, it’s far better to show what you do than to tell. Learning to take the best possible photos of your work will give you a great advantage in social media, your website and maybe even a “virtual brag book” in the form of a slide show on a monitor in your store.
Point-and-shoot have advanced to the point that a framer can take great photos that are more than sufficient for social media and most other uses. It doesn’t require a large investment in equipment to receive great results. Much of it comes down to technique.
First, consider where the finished frame will be located and what will show up in the background. You want the attention to be on your work, not any distractions behind it. Hanging the frame on a neutral wall is ideal, as it allows you to view it straight on, minimizing any distortions. If that is not practical, lean it against a wall, again being aware of any clutter or distractions around it. It is easy to make a neutral, seamless background with wide paper, available at art or crafts stores, taped to the wall with painter’s tape and extending onto the floor. To ensure you have a background suitable for any frame, have black, white and grey on hand.
An easel also works well, especially for small pieces. Again, be sure there are no distractions in the background. If your phone or camera has it, use the portrait mode so that the frame is in sharp focus and the background is out of focus.
Light is essential for any photography, and it can make or break a picture. Consider both the quantity and quality of the light. It is better to have more light than you need than not enough; your camera will adjust the exposure or you can correct it very simply after the fact. Since you will not use a flash, all the light needs to come from the environment. Too little light will make it difficult to get a good, clear photo without blurring and there is only so much that can be done to correct it.
Artificial lighting can create unwanted color shifts, while natural sunlight can wash colors out and create a blue cast. A mixture of both is ideal, so set up for photography in an area in which both types of light fall on the subject, more than likely not the workroom. This also helps avoid harsh glare or hot spots, since the light will be more diffuse.
Even with Museum Glass®, light will reflect off of any smooth surface like glass. Some glare can be removed with editing software, but it is best to avoid it to begin with. The one sure method to avoid glare is to photograph the framed artwork without glass. Simply use a few points to hold everything (other than the glazing) in the frame. To photograph a shadowbox, use small strips of ATG to hold the side strips in the frame temporarily. It takes a little more effort and reminding yourself to do it, but it is well worth the extra time.
If the frame must be photographed with the glazing installed, it will take some strategy to avoid reflections and glare. First, resist the temptation to photograph the frame flat on a worktable or counter. It will be very difficult to get a straight-on view and avoid reflections of ceiling lights. Instead, set it up hanging, leaning against the wall or on an easel. Position it so that the light from windows will hit it from the side or at an angle; an overcast day is ideal for diffuse light.
Getting the Picture
A tripod is ideal for making sure that the camera is held perfectly still, but they are not always practical depending on the setting.
The zoom features on most point-and-shoot cameras tend to produce photos which have lower resolution and can look fuzzy. Instead of zooming, simply stand closer to the frame. Although it is more an issue with traditional cameras using wide-angles lenses, this will also help prevent barrel distortion, an effect which causes the sides of the frame to appear to bow out.
If you are photographing a finished frame with glass, you do not want to be in the picture as a reflection, a particular problem with dark mats. You may be able to stand slightly to one side, but it may cause the unwanted distortions and the frame will appear out of square. If need be, a sheet of black foam board with a small hole cut in it makes for an effective “blind” to stand behind.
Finally, don’t judge your efforts too harshly. Few of us are professional photographers, and viewers of social media do not expect perfection. In fact, “perfect” photos can sometimes look too polished and “corporate” for what people expect of small businesses. Use the tools at your disposal, use them well and practice. In no time, you’ll find that you’re a pretty great photographer!
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.