The basics of secondary imagery

by Jayna Mistry

It's one thing to provide your customer with clear, well-lit images of your product. But by going that extra step further and presenting the artwork in context, with a frame, or in greater detail, you remove that element of guesswork so frequently associated with purchasing online - how will it look in reality?

Artfinder artists offer their hints and tips on how to avoid the most common pitfalls of taking secondary images.


Framed works make great gifts and provide customers with a complete product that can be hung directly onto a wall. However photographing framed artworks does pose certain challenges to the artist who wants to accurately portray the quality of their artworks without incurring glare.

Jill Griffin has several tips on how to beat the brilliance:

  • For framed work that is behind glass, try to photograph it before it is framed. Or you can take the glass out of the frame and hang the work to photograph it in the frame, reframing it after for the customer.

  • Photograph in a studio set up with daylight bulbs on the work and a dark background behind the camera. Arrange the light to cast reflections in a desired way - i.e. away from the lens!

  • Use a polarising lens - this will help reduce glare for SLR and bridge type cameras - or use a polarised eyeglass lens as a filter over a smartphone lens.

As an artist who offers many framed works on Artfinder, Peter Walters has a few handy tips of his own: “Spotless glass, avoiding the use of flash and ensuring that you have soft, even light will help reduce the effects of glare. If that doesn't quite do it then it's time to dig out your old school protractor to ensure your light source is at oblique angles to your work. Directing light at these extreme angles will put it out of reflective range to your lens while also highlighting the texture of your artwork.”

As an expert on photographing framed works, Peter Walters advises ensuring that glass is spotless before embarking on the task of photographing it.

Susan Vera Clarke also advises to beware of surfaces! “If you photograph your artworks inside and near natural light make sure you place your artworks upon a matt surface. This will stop any glare that you might pick up in the final shot. Avoid gloss painted walls and table tops. This is unless you are deliberately looking to achieve a reflection.”

Secondary Images

At Artfinder, we always encourage artists to upload secondary images to allow any customer to see the detailing and texture in an artwork work to ensure that they know what they are buying before they make that all-important purchase.

“Close-up shots really help demonstrate detail and material quality and texture,” says Ben Robson Hull. “A macro lens or setting on your camera will help with this. Try using a shallow depth of field to draw the viewer's attention to key points of interest or detail, creatively blurring out other areas of the image.”

Jill adds that “while it is obvious to compose the main photo of your work as a full image of the work itself, paying attention to the composition of secondary photographs is really important. Try to compose detail shots of your work as you would if that small ‘cropped’ area is a work in its own right.”

Styled Shots

Another great way to reassure the customer that your artwork is going to look great in their home is by providing styled shots of your artwork "on location" - whether that be hanging above a sofa, propped up on a sideboard or simply hanging on a wall.

“Props are a great way to draw the customer in and project your artistic persona onto your images. They also allow the customer to envisage the painting or picture in their own home,” says Emily Hughes. “BUT remember, simple is best. Don't clutter up your picture too much - it will draw attention away from the most important thing!”

Emily Hughes advises that props should not detract from the artwork itself.

As for content – the decision is entirely up to you! “You can have your own ‘signature’ image, for example I like to include one of me painting or signing the work," says Jill.“But you could always include one with a rubber duck if you like! It will help you get noticed and be remembered.”

This is something echoed by Ben: “I try to make each product have the same look and feel as each of the others. To achieve this I will upload the master image which is purely the print itself. I then make use of Artfinder's 'Image in Context' tool which is a great way of demonstrating the scale of your work in a home environment. I have three standard images for displaying how the product will be wrapped, boxed and how my signature, edition number and title is recorded on the reverse of the print. These are vital in building confidence with your customer so that they know their purchase will reach them in tip-top condition.”

Ben Robson Hull includes these three secondary images against every artwork to reassure the customer that their purchase will arrive with them in perfect condition.

Put your process on show

Don’t shy away from the camera! Whilst Artfinder has a ‘Me at Work’ section specifically for images of yourself, it is also informative for customers to see how you created the artwork that they are interested in purchasing.

As Susan notes, “If you have used a really cool process to create your artwork then shout about it. Photograph the studio that you created it in, the tools that you used or even yourself making it. This gives buyers a personal attachment to the artwork and makes them feel like they know the story behind the final piece. Even if you don’t think it is interesting I can guarantee others will. The more antique, archaic and authentic looking materials always get people excited about art.”

In addition to close-up shots of her work, Susan Vera Clarke includes images of the creative process involved in the production of each of her screenprints.

Hero image courtesy of Emily Hughes

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