A Detailed Guide to Taking Photos of Your Fine Art and Antiques

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It’s always been said that a picture is worth a thousand words–but in the world of online evaluations of art and antiques, only a good picture says it all. Our Experts are highly skilled in their specialty fields, so a well-taken picture of an item is nearly all that they need to complete an evaluation.

Here’s our how-to on taking Expert-quality images of your fine art and antiques:

3 General Rules for all Objects:

Firstly–lighting! Lighting is a particularly important factor to consider, as an image that is either too dark or too bright can cause a misrepresentation of your item. The ideal setting for an image is against a neutral colored background in a brightly lit space. It is best not to have a light directly on the object, especially if it has a reflective surface. You can create diffused lighting by putting a white screen, a sheet, gauze, frosted glass, etc. over the light source, or by reflecting light onto the item off a ceiling or a wall.

Secondly, clarity! Taking a clear, focused picture is possibly the most essential factor. Whether it’s a close up of the signature of a painting, the maker’s mark of furniture, or the carat stamp on jewelry, if you can’t read the picture, their can our experts. We know a clear picture is not the easiest thing to accomplish, but there are tricks that can help a picture focus. If you are taking pictures with your smartphone, there is often a feature that allows you to focus on a particular point. An iPhone or iPad, for example, will let you touch the screen on the point you want to focus, creating a perfectly clear image!

Finally, it is important for all items to have one image that includes the whole object, and then some additional images of close-up details. The details vary by the type of object, which we’ll get into later! But whether it’s a detail or the entire item, you should aim to have it take up 80-90% of the frame.

Fine Art:

A great painting submission includes the following images: One image of the whole painting, one image of the back of the canvas, a close up image of any marking on the front or back of the canvas (including signatures, dates, dealer marks, etc.), a close up image of any particularly beautiful details to show the texture of the paint, and an image of any condition issues.

 

Decorative Arts:

This is a very broad category, but in general, it’s ideal to include: one image of the entire item, an image of the object showing every side (including the bottom, and the interior if applicable), a clear image of any maker’s marks, stamps, numbers, etc., a close up image of any particularly beautiful areas, and clear images of any condition issues.

 

Fashion:

For fashion, it’s important to take a picture of the entire item hanging up against a neutral background. Include an image of the label and closeups of the fabric to show the texture and stitching. If it’s a handbag, showing clear images of the inside, stitching, zippers and pockets is key! If there are any damaged areas, it’s important to include detailed shots of those as well!

 

Jewelry:

Jewelry can be tricky to photograph. We don’t want an image of you modelling the jewelry, rather an image of the item free-standing is best. You can do this using a hanger to hang a necklace or earrings from, or some wax or putty to keep a ring standing up. We need an image of the overall item (as always!), and an image from every angle. Images that show the construction, condition issues, clasps, and settings are important–but the most essential images are clear, focused views of those marks! Anything from a serial number, maker’s mar, or stamp is essential for our Experts to see.

 

In a gist–the more images, the better! But to be the favorite of our Experts, make sure those images are clear and focused! Always just do the best you can, and remember that if our Experts need some additional images, they will let you know!