CSI Fine Arts Department

Helpful How-to's

Here is some information about techniques and methods that you may find very helpful. This information has been compiled by the CSI Art Professors.

Keeping A Portfolio

No matter what your goals are in Art it is a good practice to keep evidence of your accomplishments. Job opportunities, exhibition opportunities, as well as grant and scholarship opportunities all require portfolios in order to judge your merit. What you should keep is listed here in four categories.

Actual Work
Hang on to as much of your original art work as possible. On a regular basis select the very best examples of your work and keep them separate in a continually updated portfolio that should not exceed twenty works. Regular updating is important.

Copy Slides
It is a good idea to document all of your work on a regular basis by shooting photographic slide copies. Slides are especially important for work that will get out of your hands over the years. It is advisable to shoot more than one slide of your best works.

Inventories and Records
Good record keeping will benefit you. Keep track of you work with information such as date of completion, title, media, and dimensions. You will need this information to enter competitions and juried exhibitions.

Exhibitions and Competitions
Also, keep accurate and complete records of all exhibitions, competitions, awards, and honors in regard to work. This will come in handy for completing a resume when you need one and as a part of many application processes.

- Compiled by Russ Hepworth

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Shooting Slides

Shooting/scanning digital copy slides of your completed works on a regular basis will come in handy for entries to competitions as well as for portfolios that you will need for applications, grants, awards, employment, scholarships and prospective affiliations.

Helpful Equipment

A tripod will help keep your camera steady and properly framed. Use a cable release/camera's self-timer to trip the shutter without shaking the camera. Use the correct white balance when using a digital camera to make exposures to keep integrity of artwork photographed. When scanning 2D artwork, such as a photograph, use Epson scanning bed's software, histogram adjustments, and Adobe software's, levels and curves adjustments (as necessary) for the best possible scan while maintaining keeping image integrity.

Location and Procedure for Making Digital Copy Slides of 2D and 3D Artwork:

2D artwork:
It is recommended that one shoot digital copies of their 2D and 3D artwork indoors (in a controlled, studio-like environment). One should use a flat black/gray surface underneath or behind the work (if the work is suspended on a wall) being photographed to absorb extraneous light and to reduce distraction of background in the digital copy slide being made. Further, when shooting 2D works, the lighting, from two sources, should be of equal wattage, and consistent light source-type, and this lighting should be above and angled toward the center of the work at approx. 45 degrees from either side of the work being photographed.

Avoid alternate light sources, such as sunlight, overhead halogens, etc., mixing with your constructed lighting environment so as not to "throw off" one's white balance setting(s). One may argue using northern window-light for making digital slides is sufficient, but now one is also dealing with natural variables relatively out of his/her control. A controlled environment, if it can be facilitated, is best.

3D Artwork:
One should use a flat black/gray backdrop of cloth that rests, wrinkle-free, on a flat surface (where the 3D work will be placed) that gradually slopes behind and upward that will help eliminate background distraction and absorb light rather than reflect light within one's controlled lighting environment.

Working with 3D is similar to 2D in that they both require white balance correction in camera (or software) and require same-type light sources while eliminating alternate outside lighting. Both two and three dimensionally photographed works can benefit greatly from Adobe software adjustments mentioned in the 2D artwork column after the image has been made/transferred to a computer terminal with loaded Adobe software.

Photographing 3D objects requires a number of lighting sources. You may still use the 45-degree, angled light source (see 2D Artwork) with particular works, but this is not always prudent. This invites experimentation and patience in lighting adjustments unlike how one would normally photograph 2D works of art. One usually needs to use a third and even a forth lighting source (using the same bulbs) to help illuminate areas where shadow becomes prevalent on the work itself. The photographer should also use the other light sources to help reduce/soften hard shadows stemming from the artwork to the backdrop The wattage does not have to be the same, but the bulb type is a must for the white balance setting(s).

A three-dimensional piece should have shadowed areas on the piece, as you want to keep the artwork "looking" 3D, but one should make sure to soften these shadows so the details of the shadowed area(s) can still be fairly well distinguished. Again, this can require many light-source adjustments to illuminate the artwork while maintaining soft shadows, but the visual results are well worth the trouble. Remember: When making photographs of 3D work, you are also showing the viewer the illusion of three-dimensionality in a two-dimensional medium, so it is important to consider to the above information. Also, make sure to read the 2D artwork column and 3D column to become aware of the similar and different nuances between the two-photographic/lighting situations.


2D Artwork:
Get as close as possible to the work, yet leave a slight margin of backdrop completely surrounding the work being photographed. Be as parallel and even as possible all the way around the image being photographed. Avoid distortions like, "keystoning," by making sure your lens (while looking through the viewfinder) is geometrically centered to the piece, and that the pieces sides are parallel to the viewfinder edges to achieve optimal scale and orientation in the digital slide being made. Not doing this procedure correctly will result in images looking oblong or distorted when viewing the image in camera playback mode or computer screen once image is made/uploaded. This means paying close attention to not distorting the image while looking through the viewfinder/LCD screen.

Always keep the longest dimension of your work parallel to the horizontal axis of the cameras frame or in the direction of the film travel (i.e. if your work is taller than it is wide, shoot it by tipping the camera up sideways or laying the work over sideways). Check the margins before shooting and avoid hands in the shot.

Note: In 2D works, once the image is uploaded to Adobe software (or other correctional software), one can then "crop out" any background that is distracting to the work. By this same token, it is very important that only the image remains, and that matting or any other form of background that doesn't belong with the image towards the works visual communication, be eliminated completely.

Like the 2D Artwork column recommends, photograph the work as close as possible. Watch for distortions due to camera tilt, evaluate the lighting and shadows on and off the work and correct as necessary. When uploading the images to computer software for digital slide corrections, called "finishing," crop out excess background, but leave the artwork some "cushion" or comfortable negative space surrounding the work. Remember: When making digital 3D copy slides, it is important to make an image that consists of the entire artwork and at least one close detail shot of the work.

Exposure (2D & 3D):

Use an average exposure if light readings vary. Also, it is good practice to bracket your exposures. Bracketing is making one exposure of the work that looks "normal" to photographer's eye, and then underexposing another image by one stop below what looks "normal" to one's eye (darker image). This procedure is then followed by one more exposure, but this image is to be overexposed one stop above what looks normal (lighter image). In the end, one will have three exposures: one considered normal, one under and one over. This process will give the photographer options in his/her quest for integrity in the digital slide and thus the work itself.

Edit the images when one has the time to view them properly on a computer screen. Remember: Always back up your digital files, and clearly separate work with all pertinent information such as dates, body of work's title, dimensions, etc. If it is a detail shot of 3D artwork, distinguish the titles of these digital copy slides, ensuring that the detail shot is not confused with other slides of a different aspect.

Scanning 2D Artwork:
First, clean scanning bed using a scratch-free cloth with glass cleaner. Make sure to spray the cleaner on the rag as opposed to spraying on the glass/scanner directly! Then lay the image down to be scanned, and open the Epson scan menu located by clicking on the scanner icon in the computer's dock.

First, lower the PPI to 150 or lower while making trial and error practice scans, thus reducing time in the trial and error process of Histogram Adjustments, in the Epson scanning menu, and the Adobe Photoshop Levels Adjustment. One should initially adjust the shadow/hi-light/middle gray sliders in the Epson Histogram Adjustments, within the scanning menu, before opening the image in Photoshop and previewing the same image through a Levels Adjustment layer. The latter is to see where the hi-lights, shadows and middle grays actually fall. These tones, in a levels adjustment layer (Photoshop), should consist of hi-lights (ranging between 246-248) and shadows (ranging between 7-9). The middle gray tonal latitude should be to the photographer's specs. Once this process is "dialed in," return to the scanning menu and adjust the PPI accordingly, so the finished photographic hardcopy will have the correct resolution for the size printed.

- Compiled by Ben Lustig

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