Take Great Photos of Your Work: Tips for Glass Artists from Robert Mickelsen.
You spend hours over the flame creating a single piece of art. The creativity takes focus, craftsmanship and skillful attention to detail. And when it’s finally complete and you’re ready to show it off…. you take a quick picture with your phone on a cluttered bench in terrible light?
Of course not!
More people will see your work in photographs than will ever see it in person, especially through social media channels like Facebook or Instagram. Building the skills and spending the time to get good photos is worth it. Poor quality photos detract from good quality work and can be detrimental to your reputation as an artist and restrict your ability to sell your work at the best price.
You take yourself seriously as a glass artist, but poor quality photos don’t say that. Your work is high-quality, right? The images you use to share that work with the public should be, too.
The same reasons you love to work with glass are also the reasons that glass can be tricky to photograph. Light moves through and reflects off of glass in unusual ways. Some foundational skills for photographing glass art can take you from amateur to professional.
Glass artist and photographer Robert Mickelsen joined us for a Glasscraft webinar in 2012, providing a high level of detail for taking great photos. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite tips. You can check out the webinar PowerPoint in full at the download link below.
He shared three big areas to learn with photography: equipment, lighting and backgrounds. And the set up you need for one piece may be complete different than another. Good photography takes lots of practice and experimentation.
Equipment — Use the right kind of camera and lenses or you’ll never get good photos. You’ll need a digital SLR, a “prime” all-purpose lens like a 50mm/1.8 (a “nifty fifty”), a shutter cable and a tripod. This mix gives you a great deal of flexibility in aperture setting, shutter speed, minimal movement for clear, sharp photos.
If you do a lot of detail work or work primarily in small objects, you may want to invest in a macro lens to ensure you capture that detail well.
Lighting — Lighting is probably the most complicated aspect of photography, especially for glass. Never used uncontrolled light sources like sunlight for shooting your artwork. Your basic options are strobes, tungsten lights and fluorescents. All have pros and cons, each is appropriate for artwork photography.
Choosing the type of light goes hand in hand with finding the right light diffusion device to get the look you want. You can easily make light tents and soft boxes yourself and get the same kind of results you would with professional equipment. Experiment!
Background - Backgrounds tend to be either opaque or transparent. Opaque is best when you’re using direct lighting and the surface is also opaque. Transparent backgrounds are best for backlighting and surface is also transparent.
Opaque backgrounds give you a lot of options for gradients, brilliant for highlighting certain aspects of a work. For example, this piece was shot on a black-to-white printed gradient background.
Backlighting on a transparent background can really make the colors of a piece that has a lot of transparency pop. The blues in the roses of this piece would be almost impossible to see with direct lighting.
It can feel complicated to begin, but practice, practice, practice! But with your artistic eye, you’ll be able to get the hang out of it and take photos that represent your work accurately and say "take me seriously!" (and "buy my work!")
Need more? Check out the PowerPoint.