A Neophyte’s Journey – Photographing Fine Art

Guest Blogger:  My Husband Rick

It’s all about the light.  No, it’s all about the lens.  No, that’s not right either… It’s all about the resolution, and the image sensor, and the –   Well, it’s actually all about all these things.  So here’s a summary of what I’ve learned, and a couple of examples.

Light:  Isn’t it great when the experts are really right?  What I’ve been reading is that natural light really can’t be beat for rendering true color.  My experience bears this out.  Natural light – indirect light, that is – renders the colors on camera most accurately.

Lens:  The lens must be able to gather as much of this light as possible, so a lens with a larger aperture is going to give you more accurate color, focus, and greater resolution.  Keeping away from the limits of the lens is a good idea too (wide-open with an f-1.8 lens may introduce aberrations in color, texture, and focus so back up an f-stop or two).

Resolution:  Image file formats are critical to sharpness and rendering.  I used the deepest resolution the camera would allow.  For digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) that will be RAW format, which adds no compression and captures the richest image.  You just can’t believe the difference until you compare them side-by-side.  Due to space limitations here, I won’t post a RAW image file, but the difference is profound.

Image Sensor:  All DSLRs are going to have a great image sensor these days. Compared to the days of film processing, digital image quality has gone to the moon, while film is in a low-earth orbit.  Where you will see more substantive differences is in sensor size.  If you are using a point-and-shoot, the sensor is going to be necessarily smaller than in a DSLR, even if it boasts a big megapixel image. Point-and-shoot cameras are great and convenient, but limited by lens and sensor size and control features.

Compare these images: the first is taken with our high-quality Sony point-and-shoot in artificial light (tungsten) and heavily edited to sharpen and approach color accuracy.  The original image was a JPEG.  The second is taken with our Nikon D3100 (DSLR) with its f-1.8 lens in natural light.  There was no color correction or sharpening applied.  The original image was a RAW file (12 megabytes), resized and compressed to JPEG for web viewing (we will use the larger image files for reproduction sales on Fine Art America)

Taken with our Sony Cybershot DSC HX7V Point-and-Shoot 16.2 megapixel sensor (watercolor on paper 11" x 14").
Taken with our Nikon D3100 14.2 megapixel sensor

As you can see, the difference is marked.  I simply couldn’t render the colors accurately with the small camera.  No light source, no amount of editing would do.

Many thanks to the experts whose articles I read and reread (and reread!).


1.  J. R. Compton in http://www.dallasartsrevue.com/resources/How-to-Photo-Art.shtml

2.  Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_noise

3.  Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_(photography)

4.  Neil Creek “Photography 101.4 – Exposure and Stops” http://www.digital-photography-school.com/photography-1014-exposure-and-stops

5.  Vincent Bockaert “White Balance” http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glossary/Digital_Imaging/White_Balance_01.htm

5.  dpreview.com articles on barrel and pincushion distortion

6.  Ken Rockwell at http://www.kenrockwell.com/

One thought on “A Neophyte’s Journey – Photographing Fine Art

  1. Pingback: Photographing art with Nikon D3100 DSLR – 1 Year’s Experience « Ruth Bailey, artist

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