How to Photograph Art With iPhone or Smartphone – Step-by-Step Guide

There are loads of reasons to photograph your artwork. Whether you want to photograph art with an iPhone to put it on Instagram, or you want to make prints using your photographs. You can even take pictures to sell your artwork online, or just build an impressive portfolio on your website.

Most of us have these powerful devices in our pockets now. The picture quality from an iPhone, and many other smartphones, is more than good enough to make prints or showcase your work. However, there are some steps to follow to photograph art with your smartphone. What’s the point in spending days creating a stunning painting or drawing, only to take a photo of it that looks like it was taken on a 2006 camera phone.

Our guide shows you some great tips for taking photos of art with your phone, as well as the common mistakes people make.

Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s get straight to the point with a step-by-step guide on how to create quality photographs of your artwork.

Step 1: Change Your Phone’s Photo Settings

You want to capture your pictures at the maximum possible quality. Many modern phones are incredibly good at this, but you might have to tweak the settings.

To take quality pictures of your art on an iPhone, you should use the “high efficiency” mode, found in settings > camera. This is abbreviated to HEIF (High Efficiency Image File).

This mode is all about reducing the data storage that each image requires. It also keeps the photos you are taking high-quality. The only issue that might come up is that these are Apple-specific files. So, you simply need to change your export setting to “JPEG” in the HEIF setting. Simple.

A photograph like this is all about detail. You don’t need to use any of the more exciting “modes” of your phone. Portrait mode is great for a bit of fun, and has some great results when taking photos of people. However, you want this photograph to be high-detail, with minimal effects.

Step 2: Prepare Your Artwork on a Flat Surface

The best way to do this is to hang the artwork on the wall. Be aware that you should not put it in a frame, or cover it with glass. This will cause glare when you take the photograph.

If you don’t have the ability to hang the artwork, you can lay it on a flat table. The next step is crucial, either way…

Step 3: Lighting


It’s crucial that you take photos in a good light. Even if you have a modern iPhone with night mode settings. If you take a picture without adequate light you aren’t taking on enough detail.

Controlling the lighting is relatively easy. You can buy light boxes, designed for product photographs. These turn your room into a mobile photography studio.

You can also buy tabletop lighting kits. These are inexpensive, and a great way to provide plenty of light.

If these aren’t an option, consider taking the photographs outside during daylight. Natural light is absolutely fine. If not, you can take the photos on your iPhone in a room where a lot of natural light gets in.

Step 4: Set Up The Camera Level With the Artwork

In an ideal world, you will be able to use some sort of tripod. This allows you to get your camera level with the artwork. Otherwise, you end up with some really awful issues around warping and perspective on the artwork. This is a bad thing for every type of art, but for portraiture or art involving perspective, it can make it look amateurish.

An iPhone tripod doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money, but it can make all the difference.

If you do have to take your picture handheld, you should use the grid on your iPhone or another phone app. The grid helps you to center the artwork, but it is also helpful for ensuring that your photo is level. It isn’t perfect.

Step 5: Exposure and Zoom Settings

The next setting to ensure that you get right is zoom. You don’t need zoom. Zoom is for taking a picture of your cat running around in the garden at a distance. Make sure the camera zoom is at 1x. This means no zooming in, and no use of the wide-angle lens on modern phones.

You can manually control the exposure if required, but this is another aspect of iPhone photography that can be done automatically. If you have plenty of light, then the exposure/shutter speed will be pretty quick automatically. This reduces the risk of blur.

Step 6: Take Multiple Pictures

After you’ve set up all of the above, you can take some pictures. Though in theory, there will be virtually no difference between these pictures, you should take multiples for backups. For example, you might have accidentally nudged your tripod, or the sun may have gone behind a cloud for a second. This can impact everything you have set up. Take 3 or 4 pictures to be safe.

Step 7: Edit

Luckily, modern smartphones have plenty of options for editing the shots, too. You can edit for effect like you would with a photo or a selfie. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing to do. It doesn’t showcase your skills or show people exactly what the original looks like.

When you are editing, you should simply be tweaking the exposure, white balance, and cropping the image to give a beautiful showcase of your artwork. There’s no need for those duck filters on your painting or drawing.

How to Photograph Art for Instagram

instagram artwork photos

Taking photographs of your art for Instagram is simple. Ensure that there is plenty of light, and take the picture using the steps above. If you want to, you can crop to a square. This is the way most Instagram pictures are shared.

You can also be a little bit more liberal about the filters on Insta if you want to. It’s not as strict as product photography. Why not experiment? Take a “before and after” picture or show your picture in black and white.

How to Photograph Art For Prints

Photographing art for prints is all about getting a high-resolution image, which is true to the original. You can sell prints via your own website, Etsy, or via a photography portfolio online.

Ideally, using a professional art scanner is a good way to create prints. Second to that, a DSLR camera will give even better results in creating artwork for prints or portfolios.

The bigger the print, the higher resolution of photographs you will need. iPhones, and other smartphones, have plenty of quality for smaller prints up to around 18 inches in size. Beyond this, it might be a good idea to go for a different method to ensure sharpness and resolution.

Are iPhones Good Enough For Scanning Artwork?

As a professional artist, you might want to look for other methods if it is convenient. However, you can get good results with your iPhone, or an Android smartphone.

Since 2018, iPhones have been able to take some very high-resolution images (over 4k pixels). You can easily print to around 15-20 inches with no loss of quality.

Using an iPhone doesn’t make your work “unprofessional”. It’s all about using the equipment to the best of your ability to get a good result.

The quality check to perform is to zoom in on every part of the image, ensuring it is sharp, and true to the original.

Do I Need An App to Photograph Art on iPhone?

You can do a perfectly good job with the camera app included with your iPhone. However, if you do want more editing options, and more analysis of the photo, the free version of Lightroom is a great option.

There are many apps that can help, but try not to complicate it too much. Remember that you are just trying to create a faithful reproduction rather than adding lots of effects.


Luckily, the process is the same for every type of artwork from manga to realism, from watercolors to acrylics.

Remember to be thorough, and to take multiple pictures. Plus, make sure your phone is using its full capabilities, and settings are as high as they can be.

It’s so important to have digital copies of your artwork. If you’re not at the stage where you can use an art scanner, and you don’t yet have a DSLR that you can use, you can photograph art with an iPhone to great effect, and even use them to sell prints.

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