With the right digital camera, lighting and set up, you will be able to take wonderful images of your artwork, to highlight the details, colours, textures and subtleties of your masterpiece. Whether you are photographing art for print, or to market your work to showcase on social media or a website, it’s necessary to have a camera that you can trust that will represent your art true to form.
If you’re selling artwork online, potential buyers will want to see clear, high quality photos of the artwork before they make a purchase. So, it’s best to invest in a good digital camera, and learn how to take great photos of your artwork.
In this guide, we will discuss five different cameras that are perfect for photographing art, regardless of your budget! Plus, find advice on how to choose a camera and how to create the perfect setup for your art photoshoot.
Disclaimer: Fine Art Tutorials is a reader supported site. When you make purchases through links on this site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The best camera for photographing artwork: Review
We’ve talked to professional photographers to find the best cameras for photographing artwork. Here are our top five picks, in order from most expensive to least expensive:
Sony a7 IV
Attributes: 33MP resolution, mirrorless, full frame imaging, great low light performance, in-body image stabilization, vari-angle LCD touch screen
The Sony a7 IV is one of the best cameras on the market for photographing artwork to a professional standard. It’s got a fantastic 33 megapixel resolution, great low light performance and in-body image stabilisation.
Plus, it has a vari-angle LCD touch screen that makes it easy to take great photos of your artwork. This camera is the most expensive on the list, with a price of $2499 USD. But if you want a top-of-the-line camera that can be customised extensively, it’s worth the investment.
Attributes: Mirrorless professional grade camera, 26 MP APS-C sensor, great battery life, stabilised image sensor, 4k video
Fujifilm’s X-T series has long been a favorite of photographers who want excellent image quality without the bulk or price tag of a DSLR. The Fujifilm X-T fourth generation, released in early 2020, is the best camera yet in the series. It’s got a great 26 megapixel APS-C sensor, terrific battery life and a stabilized image sensor that produces great videos. It’s also weather-sealed, so you can use it in all sorts of challenging environments. The only downside is that it’s not cheap, with a list price of $1999 USD. But if you want a serious camera with a range of excellent features, it’s worth the price tag.
Canon EOS RP
Attributes: Mirrorless full-frame camera, 26 MP sensor, great ergonomics and handling, vari-angle LCD touch screen
If you’re looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera that’s more affordable than the Fujifilm X-T fourth generation, take a look at the Canon EOS RP. It’s got a great 26 megapixel sensor and terrific ergonomics and handling.
This camera is small and lightweight, so it’s easy to transport and carry. Whether you’re taking it out to capture some reference photos for your next artwork, or setting up to photograph a painting in the studio.
The only negative is that it doesn’t have the same great battery life as the Fujifilm X-T fourth generation. But if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of battery life for a more affordable camera, the Canon EOS RP is a great choice.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Attributes: Mirrorless micro four thirds camera, 20 MP sensor, great image quality, compact and lightweight body
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a great mirrorless micro four thirds camera. It’s got a 20 megapixel sensor and produces excellent image quality. The camera can shoot 50mp images using the pixel shift super resolution method, on a tripod.
Plus, it’s very compact and lightweight, making it perfect for taking with you on the go. If you’re looking for a great mirrorless camera that shoots professional quality photos, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 could make the perfect camera.
Canon EOS 4000D
Attributes: DSLR camera, 18 MP sensor, great for beginners, affordable
The Canon EOS 4000D is a great DSLR camera for beginners. It’s got a 18 megapixel sensor and is very affordable. Plus, it’s easy to use, making it perfect for those just starting out in photography. It’s not as powerful as some of the other cameras on this list. But if you’re looking for an affordable and easy to use DSLR camera, the Canon EOS 4000D would be an excellent option.
How to choose the best camera for photographing artwork?
If you’re looking to buy a new camera or upgrade your current one, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best camera for photographing artwork.
Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras for photographing artwork
When it comes to photography, there are two main types of cameras on the market: DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) and mirrorless cameras. So, which one is best for photographing artwork?
DSLR cameras have been the go-to choice for professional photographers for years. They offer great image quality, a wide range of features, and are generally very easy to use. However, they can be quite large and bulky, which can make them difficult to carry around with you. DSLR cameras offer better battery life and optical viewfinders. If you’re just going to be using your camera in a studio, a DSLR could be an excellent choice.
Mirrorless cameras have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among travel photographers and those who want a lighter camera. They offer many of the same features as DSLR cameras, but in a smaller body. This makes them much easier to carry around, especially if you’re going to be travelling with your camera.
When it comes to battery life, DSLR cameras typically have the edge. This is because they don’t have to power an electronic viewfinder, which can drain your battery quickly. Mirrorless cameras do have the advantage of being able to use smaller and lighter batteries, which can be helpful if you’re trying to save weight while travelling.
Mirrorless cameras are usually more expensive than DSLR cameras. This is because they’ve been on the market for less time and companies are reinvesting into improving technology. DSLR cameras generally have a larger range of features, accessories and lenses, as they have been on the market for much longer.
However, there are now many excellent mirrorless cameras that are very affordable. Entry level prices of both mirrorless and DSLR cameras come in at around the $500 mark.
Size, weight and durability
One of the biggest advantages of mirrorless cameras is their size and weight. They are much smaller and lighter than DSLR cameras, which makes them much easier to carry around with you. This can be a big advantage if you’re going to be travelling or hiking with your camera, in addition to using it for artwork photography.
DSLR cameras are typically quite large and bulky, which can make them difficult to carry around.
Other features to look out for when choosing a camera is if it is weather proof and dustproof. Although, you may just be taking photos of art in a climate controlled studio, you want to make sure that your camera is durable and will last for years to come.
What’s your budget?
When it comes to choosing the best camera for artwork photography, you need to consider your budget. If you’re a professional photographer or artist you may have a larger budget and be able to invest in a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera. However, if you’re just starting out, there are now many excellent entry level cameras that will do a great job.
Best camera features for photographing artwork
Now that you know the different types of cameras and what to look for when choosing one, let’s take a look at the best features for photographing artwork.
When it comes to image quality, you want to make sure that your camera is able to produce high-quality images. This means that it has a good sensor, a fast lens and good image processing.
A camera with a good sensor will be able to capture a lot of detail and produce sharp images. A fast lens will be able to capture more light, which is important when taking photos in low light conditions. Image processing is important for getting the best possible image quality from your camera.
In body stabilisation
This feature will help reduce blurriness, especially if you’re photographing smaller pieces
The sensor is the heart of the camera and a larger sensor will result in better image quality.
A camera’s aperture is the opening in the lens that lets light in. A wider aperture (smaller number) will let in more light and allow you to photograph in low light conditions. It will also give you a shallower depth of field, which can be helpful for isolating your subject.
The resolution is the number of pixels in an image. The higher the resolution, the more detail your image will have.
RAW files are the best quality files that your camera can produce. They are large files that contain all of the data captured by your camera’s sensor. By digitising an image in a raw format, it means you can convert it to any other file format. The standard file format for printing is TIFF.
JPEG files are smaller, compressed files that are easier to share and edit, but these types of files are lossy, meaning that they are lower quality. Unless you are using an iPhone 12 pro+, your phone camera will likely capture images in JPEG format, meaning they are not suitable for print. All digital cameras, including DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will digitise images in RAW format.
Choosing the best camera for you
Now that you know some of the best features to look for in a camera, it’s time to choose the best one for you. If you’re a professional photographer, or if you plan on making large prints of your artwork, then you’ll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a large sensor. If you’re just starting out, or if you plan on sharing your photos online, then a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a smaller sensor will be sufficient.
When it comes to price, entry level DSLR cameras start at around $500, while entry level mirrorless cameras can start at around $600. However, there are now many excellent mirrorless cameras that are very affordable.
How to choose a lens for photographing artwork
Make sure you have a lens that can zoom in or out, depending on the size of your artwork.
A lens alters the amount of light that enters through the sensor. If the lens lets in a lot of light, it means you can shoot in darker conditions without unwanted blur.
The maximum aperture number will be written on the lens and will be in the form of an f-stop value. The lower the value, the more light the lens can pick up. Lenses with lower aperture numbers will generally be more expensive.
For most photographers, a maximum f-stop value of f/2.8 will suffice, a very good lens might have an f-stop value of f/1.2.
Other supplies you need to photograph artwork
A tripod is a must for anyone who wants to take sharp, blur-free photos. If you don’t have a steady hand, or if you’re photographing in low light conditions, then a tripod is an absolute essential.
Remote shutter release
If you’re using a DSLR camera, then you’ll need a remote shutter release to take photos without shake. A remote shutter release is a cord that plugs into your camera and allows you to take photos without touching the camera. Another trick to avoid shake on a camera, is to set a timer for 3 seconds, so that the image isn’t disturbed by pressing the button.
Photo editing software
Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are the industry standard for photo editing software. However, there are many excellent free alternatives available, such as GIMP and darktable.
If you’re photographing smaller artwork, then you can use desk lamps or floor lamps to provide even lighting. If you’re photographing larger artwork, then you’ll need to use studio lights.
Make sure to use a full spectrum daylight bulb, to get the best possible light for photographing your artwork. More specifically, get a lightbulb with a CRI value of over 85. This means that the light will illuminate a full spectrum of colours in the artwork, showcasing the natural tones and hues. Another feature to look out for is the CCT which refers to how cool or warm a light is. Daylight balanced photographic film standard is 5500k, so aim to get a bulb with a measurement of around that value.
Another thing you will have to think about is how to arrange the lighting for photographing the artwork. Place two lamps, with diffusers (if needed) at around a 45 degree angle, pointing directly at the artwork. The artwork should be propped up vertically and flat for example on an easel or wall. For more information about lighting a studio, check out our guide on art studio lighting.
A diffuser is a piece of translucent material that helps to soften and spread light. By using a diffuser, you can avoid harsh shadows and glare.
What are the benefits of using a digital camera to photograph art?
There are many benefits to using a digital camera to photograph art. One of the biggest advantages is that you can capture images in raw format. This means that all of the data from the image sensor is saved to the memory card, and you can later edit it on your computer without losing any quality. Conversely, when using a phone to capture an image, the image is compressed, and it therefore loses quality.
Another big advantage is that you can change lenses. This gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to framing your shots and composing your images.
Finally, digital cameras allow you to take advantage of many different photo editing software programs. This allows you to tweak your photos to get the perfect shot, without having to worry about damaging the artwork. If you’re interested in learning how to photograph artwork, find out the steps in our guide.
Can you photograph artwork on your phone?
Photographing artwork on your phone is fine for taking shots for social media. Of course, this depends which model of phone you have. New models of phones will photograph in high resolution, meaning that shots or videos you take for social media, or YouTube will come out looking crisp, with accurate colour representation.
However, if the purpose for photographing artwork is to send to the printer, or even if you need an ultra high resolution photo for a portfolio, consider taking photos on a digital camera instead.
Should you scan artwork, or photograph artwork?
An alternative option to photographing artwork is scanning artwork. Scanning is another excellent method of creating a digital file of your piece, however it can come with some limitations. For example, if you have worked on a large canvas, you would have to scan the painting in sections and the stitch the image together in a photo editing software. For extra large art, it may not fit on the scanner.
Another advantage of capturing the image with a digital camera is that you can control the lighting, and composition much more easily. When you scan artwork, the colours might not be accurately represented, and the resolution might not be high enough for printing, however this depends on the scanner you use.
When it comes to choosing the best camera for photographing artwork, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The type of camera, the size of the sensor and the price. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to try and choose the best one for you. But if you keep these things in mind, you’ll be sure to find the perfect camera for your needs. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading!
If you’ve found anything on this site especially useful, you can make a donation to me through PayPal. I take a lot of time to research and write each topic, making sure each tutorial is as detailed as possible and I make all my content freely available. Any small donation (even the price of a cup of coffee!) can help me to cover the running costs of the site. Any help from my readers is much appreciated :).
Follow the link in the button below to support this site.