Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

If you don’t document your work, you never made it.

2008 . 05 . 16 - Comments / Commentaires (8)

If people can’t see your art unless they are in your studio, you may as well never have made the work. Documentation can’t ever do the real thing justice (or if it can, the work probably needs to be rethought!), but it should come as close as possible.

I document my own work. It isn’t just that I’m a consummate DIYer (read: control-freak). Documenting my own work means that I can get it done quickly and without shelling out any more money. I have found it helpful to invest in the tools necessary for the job instead of borrowing equipment when I need it. I like to have the tools on hand, and, too, most of the equipment is multi-purpose and crucial to other aspects of my process.


Tools: proper digital camera, tripod, two shop lights with two daylight bulbs each, a tall object (my fridge at the moment), a computer equipped with Photoshop.

documenting are

I set up my “photo studio” in my little kitchen. I lean the painting up against the far wall, near the fridge, and set up my tripod and camera at the entrance of the kitchen. I turn off all other lights in apartment and rest the two shop lights on top of the fridge. 

documenting art

The light bounces off the ceiling, walls and cabinets. By the time it reaches the painting, it’s ambient and doesn’t cause the evil glare that ruins a good documenting image!

I do “in-camera duplicates” (as it’s called when you’re using slide film) of both the full composition and the details. I do this to be sure that I get one completely in-focus image. I check the clarity of the image by loading it onto the computer and into Photoshop, and magnifying it many times to be sure that the image is crisp. This may seem like overkill, but, because I make postcards and printouts from these photos, they must be sharp.

- To print or not to print
- I have a brand new website!!
- The fine art of presenting your work

CATEGORIES: - English - Business of art -

Gwenn Seemel on Liberapay     Gwenn Seemel on Patreon

(8) Comments / Commentaires: If you don’t document your work, you never made it.

-- barbara weinstein -- 2009 . 09 . 14 --

well i’ve got the camera, tripod and photoshop plus printer….there isn’t a damn white wall inmy house however. i wil look aroundto see what might work. thanks gwenn.

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-- shirley nelson -- 2010 . 01 . 22 --

Thanks for sharing information like how to document with novice such as myself.  It helps greatly.


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-- ma -- 2010 . 06 . 10 --

what if you wanted to make a large (48x56 or larger) print of a painting? do you use the same process?

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-- Gwenn -- 2010 . 06 . 11 --

I just rephotographed this piece in that way (to replace the image of it that I had made with an analog camera).  It’s 2 x 10 feet.  I photograhed it in two parts and then photoshopped them together.  I also regularly photograph works that are 4 x 3 feet.  It’s trickier to get a crisp image when the work is large, but this system works. 

As for making really large prints of my work, I’ve never done that.  Good luck!

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-- Rodrigo -- 2014 . 07 . 06 --

What if someone just make digital art. Do you think a “progress documentation” would be a nice aproach?

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 07 . 09 --

For sure, Rodrigo! But then I think showing the process for all art is interesting! smile

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-- Janice Schuler -- 2016 . 02 . 06 --

This used to be a huge problem for me until I decided to do what you did, Gwen. Photographers were asking large sums of money (I did not really budget for this) to document just a few pieces. I have been told over and over that you need a professional photographer for publications, cards, etc.  But you covered the crucial elements of lighting and photoshop.  I use a free photo editing site called pic monkey.  It has basic editing tools, but it also has a re-sizing tool. This comes in very handy when I am submitting and am told the file is too big, or small, or must be a specific size, as does CaFE Management. I may get Photoshop, and I DO think it is one of the most important parts of this process.  That, and the lighting set up.  You want diffused light.  I also have learned to zoom in as far as possible to see if the details of the painting are still clear, and if they are, I keep that image.  Kudos to you for your “photo studio”!  I am sure you get images that the pros get.  I traded my digital SLR Nikkon in for a Canon PAS with 20 px, mirrorless, and large sensor.  I like the compact size—always convenient and takes excellent photos for what I need.  I do not need a large zoom, and I do make very large paintings.  Thank you for this blog.

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-- Gwenn -- 2016 . 02 . 06 --

I recently heard about a group that’s trying to connect artists and documenters more affordably. It’s called ArtSquare. I haven’t actually seen their price list, so I don’t know how affordable they actually are, but it is an option for those who aren’t happy with what they manage to produce on their own.

Huzzah and hooray for those of us who do our own documenting though. So much easier in the end. Thanks for stopping by Janice!

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