Monday, April 13, 2015

The 100 Day Project

The 100 Day Project is this giant project where people commit to 100 days in a row of making. Each day, people post their works on Instagram with the hashtag #the100dayproject.

Anyone can participate, even after the April 6 start date. For instructions, see

Committing to making and posting something every day is one of the best hacks that any artist can introduce to their art-making process. Whenever I've committed to similar things, I've noticed rapid improvements in my own art.

There are other similar projects, such as Give It 100 and Illustration Friday. If you hear of any more good ones, let me know about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Experiment: Taking Photos of Watercolor Paintings Outside

I've been trying to figure out how to take decent photos of my watercolor paintings.

Most of the posts in various online forums recommend taking the photos outside. Some people say direct sunlight is best; others say that the sun washes out colors, and that you have to find a shady spot outside.

Time and Weather Conditions

I took these photos at 2:15pm, when the sun was still high but at a good angle for me to take direct overhead shots without getting shadows. It was a clear day with a few wispy cirrus clouds high up in the distance, and none directly overhead.

Option 1: Direct Sunlight

Here is the best photo that I got outside in direct sunlight. With the sun coming at somewhat of an angle, the painting seemed less washed out than if I had taken this at noon.

ISO 100 ("Low" setting), 1/125 sec at f/11.

It's pretty green-toned, which is similar to the original. However, the colors are washed out in a way that I don't like. In the original, the gradations of the washes are much more noticeable. The sunlight washes out the crispness of the colors.

Editing the photo resulted in this.

Pumping up the whites and highlights resulted in almost losing the subtle colors of the beak, the neck, and the tail.

Option 2: Full Shade

Now here is the best photo that I got outside in the shade. I took this photo in the shade of a large tree. The tree was to the west-northwest (WNW) of me.

ISO 100, 1/125 sec at f/3.5.

In the shade, I had to increase the aperture from f/11 to f/3.5 because it was so much darker than before in the sunlight. 

I don't like the bluish tint. The original painting has no blue in it, not even in the shadow. The shadow here is very blue and violet. 

Adjusting the photo's temperature and tint weren't enough to get rid of the blueness. However, I was able to remove the blue cast by choosing Blue under Color in Lightroom, and then setting Saturation to -100 and Luminance to -60.

Despite the awful bluish tint, the colors do seem a little less flat. There's a little more variation to work with.

Editing this photo resulted in this.

Note the nice darkness of the beak, neck, and tail, which I couldn't get in the direct sunlight version. Also note the slightly bluish shadow. It's not supposed to be bluish, but I couldn't fix that any further. 

Finally, note how the paper color isn't as white as I'd like. I tried to increase the whites to fix that, but that resulted in losing too much color from the beak, neck, and tail.

The Verdict

I'm not sure, to be honest. When I first performed the experiment, I thought shade won over direct sunlight by a small margin, because the colors were less washed out and seemed to give me a wider range to work with. However, looking back at the original photos and final edits a couple of days later, I prefer the sunlit version.

In the future, it would be interesting to see if overcast skies improve the tint and range. My guess is that you get the best of both worlds, since the clouds would act as giant reflector-diffusers in the sky and balance the light out.

I would also like to know if taking photos of watercolor paintings indoors with studio lighting solves the problems that I had.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Optimizing Lightroom Metadata for Fine Art

In Lightroom, you might have seen the Metadata panel and wondered what it's for. For the longest time, I thought it was just junk that I didn't have to worry about unless I wanted to see the camera settings for a photo.

Why Bother With Metadata?

I recently learned that you can and should use the Metadata panel to annotate your photos, particularly photos of artwork! Here's why:

It's Saved Into the File

The metadata you enter is saved into the file itself when you export. That means that when you send a curator, gallery, or patron a file, whatever you enter is attached to the file. Galleries often have so many files that it's easy to lose track of

It's Used By Flickr, Facebook, Google Plus, SmugMug, Etc.

Your metadata is also used by apps/websites such as Flickr. The title and description typically gets auto-filled from your file's metadata, if it exists.

Enter once, see everywhere. If you enter titles, captions, and/or descriptions directly into Lightroom, you don't have to waste time entering them again everywhere that you upload the file.

How You Enter Metadata in Lightroom

I care mainly about the Metadata panels under Library and Map.

Use the Library Module

The Library module is where you enter most of the metadata. See the right panel, lower half:

From the Library module, some of the data can automatically get populated via a preset, since it's the same for all your artwork:

  • Copyright: Something like "© 2015 A. Roy Greenfeld". Use your full artist name or pseudonym, as you would use in an exhibition.
  • Copyright Status: Copyrighted
  • Creator: Something like "A. Roy Greenfeld". Use your artist name, as in the copyright.

Then, here is what you should enter manually for a painting:
  • Title: The formal title of the painting, as you would print it on an exhibition card. If it doesn't have a title, Untitled is better than nothing.
  • Caption: You have a couple of options.
    • If you wish to post this more formally, use any description text that you might use in the work's label card in an exhibition.
    • For informal posting online, you can add personal, first-person notes that speak to your audience about your work. This is better for practice studies done with reference photos that need attribution.
You don't have to use these fields, but you can:
  • Copy Name: Use only if you created a virtual copy of the painting in Lightroom. For example, if you create a 16x20 cropped copy of a painting with extra contrast, call it "16x20 extra contrast". When you export a copy, that text can be appended to the copy's filename.
  • Sublocation: For example, "Washington Monument" if this is a painting of the Washington Monument, to distinguish from Washington, D.C. Or "Tenderloin" if you want to distinguish the Tenderloin neighborhood from San Francisco.
  • Rating: There are several ways to use this:
    • Fastest: Use either 5 stars or unrated. 
    • For more control:
      • Rate the painting itself on a scale of 1-5.
      • Rate the photo of the painting on a scale of 1-5. Four stars means that you might retake the photo; 3 or fewer means that you probably should reshoot.
  • Label:
You'll probably want to leave these fields as-is:
  • File Name: Doesn't matter
  • Folder: It's just the folder containing the file.
  • Capture Time: By default, this is the time you took the photo. If you want, you can change it to the time you painted the painting, but I prefer to leave it as-is.
  • Capture Date: By default, this is the date you took the photo. If you want, you can change it to the date  you painted the painting, but I prefer to leave it as-is.
  • Dimensions: The pixel dimensions of the photo before cropping.
  • Cropped: The pixel dimensions of the photo after cropping.
  • Exposure: The shutter speed and f-stop of the photo.
  • Focal Length:
  • ISO Speed Rating: 
  • Flash: Whether the flash fired.
  • Make: The make of the camera. Usually the brand or company, e.g. "OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP"
  • Model: The camera model.
  • Lens: The lens you used on the camera.
  • GPS: The GPS data recorded by your camera, if your camera is capable of recording this and if you have set it up to record GPS info.

Optional: Map Module Metadata

If you want, you can enter more geographic data from the Map module. I usually don't bother, but you can use these fields:
  • City: Where you painted the work.
    • Consider using the name of the nearest internationally-known major city, e.g. "Los Angeles" even if you live in a place near LA like Burbank or Echo Park.
    • Alternative: be more accurate if you wish to keep this data for mapping/storytelling purposes.
  • State/Province: Spell this out, e.g. "California" rather than "CA". This helps international viewers who might not know the abbreviation.
  • Country: Use the full verbal name.
  • ISO Country Code: Use the 2- or 3-letter code as defined by ISO 3166. If I use this, I prefer the 2-letter codes.
  • GPS: The GPS data recorded by your camera, if your camera is capable of recording this and if you have set it up to record GPS info.
  • Altitude: The altitude data recorded by your camera, if your camera is capable of recording this and if you have set it up to record altitude info.

Find Anything Wrong?

The above is for Lightroom 5.5. If there are any changes for newer versions of Lightroom, or if I made any mistakes, I welcome comments.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Using Lightroom for Fine Art

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a tool used mainly by photographers. They use it for their workflow, cataloging images and organizing them into folders.

Lightroom also allows photographers to experiment with contrast and color on batches of images without overwriting changes. Once a photographer is satisfied with a particular shot, they can hit Command+P to open it in Photoshop for more fine-grained editing if needed, or they can export it straight from Lightroom to a web-optimized JPG.

Most of the tutorials you'll find online are about using Lightroom for photography. But you can use it for fine art workflow management too.

Here is how I use it:

As you can see, these are watercolor paintings, not photos. Well, technically they're photos because I took photos of my paintings.

From SD Card to Hard Drive

When I put my SD card into my computer, Lightroom automatically opens and asks if I want to import the new files that it finds. It copies them onto my hard drive, into a new folder with the date that I took the photos.

I've set it up to work this way, but you can do whatever you want. I used to have Picasa set up this way, but I recently graduated to Lightroom because it does a lot more.

Picking Out the Clearest Shot

Typically I take several photos of each painting. Sometimes a photo turns out blurry. Sometimes I want to experiment with different lighting angles. In Lightroom, I go through these and pick out the single photo that came out the best.

Straightening and Lighting Fixes

Lightroom has a Develop module which can be used for simple edits. It's roughly equivalent to using Picasa's editing tools. I use Develop to correct the lighting of a painting, and to straighten it. Often that's enough.

If not, I then open it in Photoshop to make additional corrections, such as when there are shadows that I need to remove manually.


You can use Lightroom to manage fine art workflow, treating your photographs of your paintings or sculptures as if they were any other photo.

In upcoming posts, I'll be writing more about specific things that you can do in Lightroom with fine art.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Welcome to Fine Art Hacks!

I've realized over the years that being a successful artist is not just about painting or sculpting.

From the moment a piece is completed to the day it is shown in a gallery or sold, a lot of behind-the-scenes work must take place. It can be exhausting to keep good records of each piece. But once the piece is sold (or damaged or lost), it's gone.

I will be presenting my tips for organizing, documenting, and presenting each of your art pieces in its best possible light. This will be a collection of my fine art workflow hacks, such as:
  • Tricks for photographing art of all sizes
  • Post-production editing of artwork photos in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Cataloging and using metadata, keywording, tags, etc. efficiently
  • Matting and framing hacks
I don't know all the answers, of course. I'll be experimenting and documenting my adventures. Part of the point of this site is to help me get better at artwork photography, presentation, and documentation.

If you have tips or advice, feel free to comment or contact me. I would love to exchange tricks of the trade with other artists.

There's so much more to come. Stay tuned!