Snap Photos of Your Art In Situ

Photographs of your art in situ add a whole new dimension to the presentation of your work.
In art, in situ means the place where the artwork is installed or exhibited. Rather than showing the work by itself, photograph it in a likely environment.
If you make two-dimensional fine art, you could photograph your art in homes or public buildings. Aim for a variety of shots: above sofas, tables, beds, as well as in hallways and stairwells.

Barbara Wisnoski, Field
Barbara Wisnoski has terrific photos of her textile art in situ on her website (just click the photo above to access). Pictured here: Field, 165 x 229 inches. ©The Artist.

Three-dimensional fine art could be photographed on pedestals next to chairs, beside a bookcase, and in a dramatic entryway.
Functional art such as jewelry or ceramics can be photographed on the body, in a place setting, or while using it (e.g. pouring from a pitcher, sipping out of a mug, tossing a salad with hand-carved utensils).
All art should also be photographed in exhibition spaces. Years from now you’ll be pleased that you documented your art as it was installed.

Don’t Use Just Any Old Setting

Remember that everything in your photograph is part of the composition. Look for strong elements and patterns that draw people into the photo without overshadowing the art.
Spend time on good lighting and you’ll be rewarded. Or, for best results, hire a pro for your photographs.
An in situ photograph should never be the sole picture of any piece of art unless the work is site specific, such as an installation. For most art, show off the work first, and then add the in situ photos as bonus views.
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20 thoughts on “Snap Photos of Your Art In Situ”

  1. I love to take pictures of my own and my friends’ quilts as they hang in a show…sort of a shot down the row, so you can see how it looked *in* the show! Receiving the picture is a fun treat for the artists, especially if they were not able to travel to the show.

  2. This is an overlooked, great idea. I think artists tend to forget that not everyone is visually oriented. Giving people the “visual” of how art fits in the environment helps them make art choices. I realized this a bit ago and started doing an “Art & Interiors” section on my website’s blog http://tiny.cc/i4oq7 I happen to like interior design and I use my artwork as well as others. I think it’s along the same line with what you are saying.

  3. Hi Alyson, Thanks for the information on “in situ”….Is there any way you can tell me how it is pronounced? (in-sit-two?) While I have not heard the phrase before, I have been taking photos of my artist receptions and adding them to one of the blogs I have created along with short video clips. I think this is a great idea and broadens the scale of the art work for the viewer. Thanks again.

  4. Great point Alyson! I encourage all artists to maybe have a professional photographer, preferably a friend willing to trade, to take photos at their receptions. I have been doing it and it makes a great impression on collectors and prospects. I recently compiled photos from one of my exhibition into a book called “Elemental Atmospheres”. You can see a full preview here: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1544593
    My favorite shot is on page 32. Thanks again, I will keep exploring new ideas for in situ opportunities.

  5. Great post. It’s making me think about some ideas I’ve had for creating special backgrounds for taking photos of my sculptures. I admit that I usually only get the professional photography done of my work, and then hope to install the work in a gallery space and have more photos taken. But what if my work never gets installed the way I imagined? Maybe it would be a good idea to create a “stage” to take special photos. Who knows, maybe this kind of photo would actually help me get the work into a gallery space in the first place. I’m starting to believe that even people who work in a gallery could use help imagining new work in their space, especially if it is more of an installation.

    1. Alex: Yes, stage it. It’s kind of like those photos of myself speaking that I’m NEVER going to get because I look terrible in each one (mouth open, eyes closed, etc.). I’m going to have to stage some shots to get what I want.

    1. Brad: Thanks for the link. I like a lot of her photos, but some of them need to have more art and less home decor stuff–the furniture seems overpowering. I’d do some cropping.

  6. I am still working on this. My photos are not great but they aren’t aweful, thank goodness. When I was younger, back when 35 mm film SLRs were not yet replaced by digital cameras, I did art photography. It’s not the same thing. And my present product shooting camera is a nice but still limited point and shoot.
    Several in situ issues I need to contend with include (but are not limited to) I have no idea how sold work is displayed; unsold 2D work is either resting wrapped or hung at my Mom’s (inaccessible to photography); I’m still thinking about something artistic for the worn work displays. Live models won’t work – I need more practice with my camera for that environment and my model is a very busy 12th grade niece. And too much of the setting distracts attention from the work. Looking at Barbara’s image is a case in point. Her wall art is way off to the side and one really has to focus on looking over there instead of at the interesting chandelier. On the other hand, Leslie’s image is beautifully photographed and the eye does indeed move instinctively to the sculpted dryad embracing the tree.
    Hire a professional? I don’t have the funds and I don’t know any who are both good enough and willing to barter. Although I’d really like to work with a talented student. But what would I barter with anyway? I don’t know what other people want and I hate to incorrectly guess.

  7. I thought of this idea a long time ago and did not act upon it until last year. I have a section in my Portfolio in my web site entitled “Carol’s Art on the Wall,” I suppose it should be entitled “Carol’s Art in Situ” ?? Here is the link to the portfolio I am referring to: http://paintingharmony.com/collections/14132/?displayhorz=3
    Sometimes I use my house for the background but that has limitations. Now I try to find photos (free photos available at Google.com) and use PhotoShop to place my painting in different settings (situs?). I then add the cast shadow as well to make it look like it is hanging on the wall.

    1. Carol: I think “Art on the Wall” is just fine. But maybe something cozier. Just not sure what that would be.

  8. This is great advice. An artist I know has taken this idea one step further providing interactive display on her website. This enabled visitors to choose from a set of room design (eg living area with an artwork placed on the above the sofa) and then choose an artwork from her website and have it display in the space on the wall. Very clever idea, except she’s removed the option now from her website so I can’t post it !

    1. Yes, I’ve seen this done, although I must say that I prefer “real” settings. Not sure why, but perhaps because of their authenticity.

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