Central Texas Pastel Society Facebook page

Central Texas Pastel Society

Photographing Your Pastel Painting

Pastel Paintings: Outdoor Photography & Art Show Guide

 How to Enter An Art Competition

  • Get the prospectus and read it carefully.
  • Are you eligible?
  • Is your art eligible?
  • Can you meet the deadlines?
  • Was any of the work completed in a workshop or class?


  • Did you take the photo yourself?
  • Did you use a photo from a magazine or from online?
  • No matter how good the photo, if you did not take it yourself - DON’T USE IT.

Setting up the Photo

  • Take your photos AFTER painting is finished and BEFORE framing with no glass or mat. Do not make ANY changes to the painting after taking and submitting the photo to the competition.
  • If you have an easel that will stand vertical (straight up and down), use that.
  • Make sure no shadows fall on painting (camera or your body not casting shadow).
  •  Put camera on tripod or flat surface so it stays steadier when taking the photo - if possible use a timer or remote control to take the photo without wobble.
  • Make sure the camera is square to the painting. Adjust camera angle until the edges of the painting are square and don’t skew. Zoom in slightly so that image fills the viewfinder as much as possible.
  • Diffused daylight is best lighting (outdoors on an overcast day) - if indoors, adjust white balance on camera to compensate.
  • Do not use flash.

Transfer Images to Computer - Crop & Size

  1. Transfer your images to your computer.
  2. Select the image you want to use.
  3. Crop the image to eliminate any background, or skewing can be done using Picasa, Gimp, Preview or other apps.
  4. If in doubt how to do it, search on YouTube for directions “How to size photos using Preview...” or “How to size photos using Paint...” or “How to size photos using Gimp...”

Color Correcting

  • It may be tempting to edit your photo to make it look better - be careful.
  • Don’t make any changes that make the photo look better than the actual painting.
  • The painting you present for hanging must look pretty much like the photo you turned in to enter.
  • Paintings which don’t look like the photo could be rejected.

Check YouTube videos for ideas on how to size, crop & edit pictures using a Mac or PC. Gimp is photo editing software similar to PhotoShop & is available FREE for PC or MAC.




Sizing Images Using Flickr for Free

  1. If you have a Yahoo ID sign up for a free Flickr account (if you don’t have a Yahoo ID get one first - it’s free too)
  2. Once you have a Flickr account, you will be given an email address. Email your photo to that address. Give it a few minutes and check the camera roll on your Flickr page.
  3. Open the image on your Flickr page; on the bottom right there will be a downward arrow.
  4. Click the downward arrow to download your image back to your computer.
  5. You will have 4 size options.
  6. Choose the size option closest to what you need to enter the competition.
  7. Download and save to your computer.
  8. Use it to enter the competition.
  9. Picasa can also be used in a similar way.


  • Image should be clear and in focus. Remember, the image you submit represents your work. In juried shows, it is what determines who gets in the show.
  • Image must not exceed file size in prospectus.
  • Image should be .jpeg format, unless otherwise noted.
  • Image should not contain frame, mat, or watermark.
  • Image file name should be labeled as requested in the prospectus (usually ArtistName_Title_Size.jpg).

Other Options:

If you simply do not want to get into cropping and sizing your images there are other options:

  • Precision Camera in Austin said they would size images for $10 (up to 3 images)
  • There are professional photographers who specialize in taking photos for artists. Don’t know about pricing, but could easily be Googled.

How to Photograph a Pastel Painting: Indoor Photography Guide

 1. Prepare your art. You must photograph the painting without the frame, matting and glass.

2. Position the painting on a wall.

  • Preferably, hang your art on a neutral colored wall.
  • Use clear pushpins to secure your work on the wall – pin the wall, not the painting.
  • Center the artwork at eye level; use a carpenter’s level to position the artwork.
  • For ease in positioning your art, draw the bottom line on the wall or use tape on the wall to level properly.
  • Tape or pin a photographer’s color guide, if available, along the edge of the art.

Note: Another option is to set your art on an easel, as upright as possible. Lean the color guide, if available, along the edge of the artwork. Tilt the camera to match the tilt of the easel.

Tip: For a large painting, place the long edge along the leveled tape or line, or tilt the camera.



3. Set up your lights. Position two 500-watt floodlights on either side of the artwork.

  • Halogen 500 watt 5,000 K, daylight balanced bulbs work well.
  • The lights should be the same height as the center height of the artwork.
  • Place the lights the same distance from the artwork, at a 45° angle to the painting, so each light is broadcast across the artwork.

4. Select the camera settings.

  • Color mode: Adobe RGB
  • Image size: Set to the largest size your camera can produce.
  • Image format: Use RAW or TIFF (or JPEG format if only choice)
  • ISO (film speed): 100
  • White balance: If the camera has this option, set white balance to match the floodlight bulb type (i.e., halogen daylight-balanced 5,000 K).
  • Exposure control: Manual mode
  • Flash: Disable the camera-mounted flash
  • Aperture and f-stops: Aperture is the opening through which light passes into a camera. For most lenses, f8 is a good setting.
  • Shutter speed: With your camera on a tripod, set at 60.
  • Lens: Use a 50 mm macro lens, or a variable lens at 50 mm. (A fixed lens has less glass inside that can cause distortion.)

5. Mount the camera on a tripod and place it in front of the artwork.

  • Point the camera straight ahead to the center of the artwork.
  • The camera lens and the center of the artwork must be the same height – use a tape measure for accuracy.
  • Place the tripod and camera so the artwork and color guide fill as much of the viewfinder as possible, without cropping the image. For tall art, hang the art sideways on the wall so it can fill the frame.

Note: Only tilt the camera if the artwork is tilted, such as on an easel.

6. Adjust the floodlights. Estimate the distance from the camera to the artwork, then:

  • Preferably, place one floodlight twice that distance to the left of the artwork and the other one the same distance to the right.
  • Aim them at a 45° angle to the art.
  • The lights should be at least as far back as your camera. If they are too far forward, light can strike the camera lens and cause glare in the image.


7. Check the lighting.

  • Turn on the floodlights and turn off the room lights; extra light will upset the color balance of your picture.
  • Adjust the floodlights so the light is evenly distributed on the art. If there is a glare on the artwork, decrease the angle of the lights from 45°to 35° or no less than 15° until the glare is eliminated.
  • Allow 10 minutes after turning your lights on for the bulbs to warm up fully.

8. Take three shots of your artwork. Make sure the art is aligned in the viewfinder. Use a timer or cable release to press the shutter, for best results.

  1. Set the aperture to f8. Focus and take the picture.
  2. Change the aperture to f5.6. Recheck the alignment, focus, and shoot.
  3. Now change the aperture to f11. Recheck the alignment, focus, and shoot.

Note: These three shots provide light, middle and dark versions of the image. F8 is often best.

9. Edit your image. Use photo editing software to resize, align and perfect your best image. There are several editors to choose from, but a few suggestions are:

  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Elements
  • Picasa
  • iPhoto (Mac computers).

Here are two methods for photographing your pastel artwork, one indoor guide, plus one outdoor guide with details on entering  an art competition. These are just suggestions, and you may find other guides on the Web that you prefer.