Documenting your artwork is essential to professional development in this day and age. I recently visited a university and had a conversation with the students about whether the documentation is actually more important than the finished work itself. After all, the digital image, which lives online, in applications, in books, etc., will likely be viewed by more people than the original artwork. What a strange time we live in!
This importance in documentation means that we, as artists, have to either hire someone to make sure our work is represented to its fullest potential or learn to do it ourselves. Awhile back we covered the first step of the process in "DIY Tricks to Photograph Your Art Like a Pro" and here we will cover some basic post-shooting techniques to refine your images digitally. For the purpose of not being exclusive to people who own the program Photoshop, I will be referencing a free online-app alternative called Pixler. The tools I will present often translate similarly to a variety photo editing programs. The tools I will present often translate similarly to a variety of photo editing programs.
The first step to editing your image is getting the shape of the photo correct. Because the squareness and levelness of your photo is often eyeballed, it has a tendency to be slightly off when you get a precise level line against it. This is an easy fix using digital editing tools by going to Edit>Free Transform and then hovering your mouse over the corner until you see the little swirly circle symbol. Pull this to tilt your image to the correct angle.
Ideally, you have managed to take photos from straight on, but inevitably there are slight tilts and extra space. Using the crop tool in Pixlr, at Image>Crop, you can make sure your entire piece is in the frame, just how you like it. If it is tilted be sure and crop it so that you can't see the extra space, no one will ever know!
The next step to editing is adjusting the colour and contrast. To do this head up to Adjustment>Brightness & Contrast to get started. The goal is to represent your artwork in the most accurate way you can. Slide the scales and watch your image change. It doesn't take much to refine the brightness and contrast! I like to have the piece nearby to compare my changes to the actual object.
Adjusting the Colour Balance takes the most patience. When adjusting the color, at Adjustment>Colour Balance, I like to grab the sliders and then look at only the image while I adjust it. This way, you are not influenced by how far to one side or the other your slider goes. I do this using all 3 options and then I go back and adjust a second-time just to be sure I have the colours accurate. For a fresh look, ask a friend for their thoughts! Looking at the image so intensely for so long can distort your view.
There are many more colour and shade adjusting tools, these are just the ones I find most useful. Experiment with all of them to refine your pictures even more!
Sizing and Finishing
The final step is to make sure your sizing is correct and saving your file. I save two versions of each image: A "High Res" for print publications and promotional material and a "regular" version for websites and applications. To adjust the size go to Edit>Image Size. For the High Res version, I keep it at the top size shown. Do not increase the size because it will make the image larger than it actually is and will invent pixels that aren't actually there, blurring the image. Then, go to File>Save and select the largest size possible before saving.
For the "regular" version, go to "Image Size" and make the width 1000 pixels wide and go to "Save" and make the image 600-1000 KB in file size. These are both small enough for the Internet while keeping the quality high.
Below are a couple examples from the ArtMe Gallery that are edited beautifully and uploaded in high resolution. Nice job!
"Great Expectations" by Lynne Godina-Orme
"Surfer Boy" by Pic Poc