Perhaps the most important aspect of an MFA application is the portfolio. You work should be impressive, meet the goals of the program you’re applying to, and, most of all, be properly and well presented. Many programs are using a website called Slideroom to accept portfolios digitally. You pay a fee of $10 (on top of the basic fee you’re already paying to the university just for applying) and upload your portfolio in a format similar to facebook. Some programs are still using the good old CD method – you send in a cd with your images and a printed document listing all the images and info about them, or you send in a cd with a powerpoint of your images and info about them. Good news! So far, no programs that I have discovered are using slides anymore. Huzzah!
Now, there are plenty of artists out there that get their work photographed for them. And sure, that is easier. Not cheaper, but easier. I, however, refuse to believe that in this age of DIY and technological advancement, I cannot produce digital images of my own artwork! So there. Um… where do I start?
So, how should you go about photographing your own work? Here are some tips I was able to find online, mixed with a few things I learned in college.
- The number one tip is to be patient and take your time. Chances are it took a long time for you to create the piece you’re snapping a picture of – take time to make it look good digitally too.
- If your work is small, on paper or another soft material, mount it to something a bit more stiff.
- Set up your tripod. This is going to make the whole experience so much easier. You might think it’s faster to just adjust the camera with your hands, rather than shifting about levers and levels and whatnot, but you’re going to pay for that with slightly blurry pics. This will also let you set your camera ISO low, so you can decrease noise and keep the image nice and crisp. Use the tripod.
- Use your best camera, or, alternately borrow the best camera your friend owns. I’m using my newly purchased Nikon.
- Select a non-distracting and ideally gray or white background to lean your work against and make sure the camera lens is parallel to the artwork.
- The light should not be too warm, too cool, too direct… Turn off your flash. You can make minor adjustments for warm-cool light saturation on your computer, but too many adjustments will likely result in a picture that doesn’t look like the painting/drawing/print etc. (Cloudy but not too dark days between 11am and 2pm are the best option. If inside, try to work with good light from a large window.)
- Your other option would be to use 2 clamp lights at 45 degree angles facing your work.
- Only leave a small space between the edge of your work and the edge of your picture plane – allowing for the largest pixel rendition of your piece.
- If you’re using a camera with a zoom lens, try zooming a little bit more the half way. This allows for the flattest image possible with your lens and stretches the depth of field preventing possible blur. (From “Photograph Your Own Artwork for Print“)
- Use the camera self-timer to prevent any shaking when you take the picture.
Curious about the lights he used in the first part of the video? They’re Lowel Tota-lights! Pretty nifty, and they cost a little over $200 each. I will be sticking to clamp lights, thank you very much. You can use daylight grade light bulbs if it will make you feel better.