iPhone Xs or DSLR camera for photographing art?



  • Warm greetings!

    An extremely generous family member is insisting on buying me a camera to photograph paintings that will become children's book illustrations. They are suggesting an iPhone Xs or DSLR camera of comparable or lower price.

    The paintings are full spreads, and including a 1" bleed they are 10"x22". I imagine that I could take multiple shots and stitch them together, but it would be nice to avoid that if possible because I'm trying a process where flashlights shining on the paintings create certain effects (a lamp is on, the sun is shining, etc.), and I don't know if adjusting the camera with the flashlights set up will be extra challenging. The final book will be printed at 8"x10". The final images after cropping need to be submitted at 300dpi.

    The problem is that photography and cameras are not my expertise! I've been trying to research what would be the best option, but I'm wondering if those of you with more experience would be willing to help me get my footing in order to understand what I need to look for in a camera to achieve professional results. If you have any suggestions about what to purchase, I would love to hear them.

    Some pros of getting the iPhone would be that it has more functions than just the camera, so it would serve other purposes. Also, what I'm reading suggests that the phone's processor does a lot of the work in producing a "good" image, while a DSLR camera would require me to know what I'm doing 😬 (I'm willing to learn, but it will take time).

    On the other hand, I imagine that I could get a good DSLR at less than $1000USD, and that would save my generous family member some funds. But I'm not sure of what I need to look for in a camera to ensure that the photos turn out great.

    I'm welcoming any advice since I truly am a novice.

    Does anyone else have an iPhone Xs that you've used to photograph artwork that I could see a sample of? Or another camera that you've used to digitize artwork?

    Many thanks for your time and input...



  • @kathrynadebayo My advice is a DSLR or a mirrorless compact camera. Canon 6D would be a good benchmark for $1000. But if you buy it second hand you could get one with a 50mm lens (f1.8 or f1.4 version) for $1000.

    How I do it: Shoot in RAW (to get genuine colours and white balance) at ISO 100/200 (to keep the noise artifacts low). Centre of the lens angled to the centre of the painting to reduce distortion. Always use a circular polariser for taming reflections. Important to use a tripod and shutter release cable too as camera shake can be a problem as I shoot with a slow shutter speed at f11 aperture (for overall sharpness). Also 18 to 20 mega pixels is a good size for quality image detail - no need for photo stitching. Don't use flash unless you have a softbox as paint can catch flashlight and glare out sections of your painting. Use continuous lighting on either side at 45 degrees - Sun on a cloudy day if you can't borrow lights off someone. LINK on How to Photograph Your Artwork Example Setup.

    Hope this helps. Sorry for all the photo jargon. Happy New Year.



  • I vote for the camera. Phones are always available. But a good camera is going to last much longer than the phone. This opportunity may not come around again. Get the camera. How exciting! Your work is worth it! I love your paintings!



  • @kathrynadebayo I think no doubt go for the camera if your main purpose is to photograph your artwork. A lot of it too is going to be the other aspects of the setup like what @sigross is saying... ie the lighting, tripod setup. You can have the best camera in the world, but if you don't set things up well, you still won't have good looking pictures.



  • Thank you, @sigross @robgale and @Whitney-Simms ! I appreciate the advice very much. What you said, Whitney, about the longevity of use definitely struck me as important. I'm leaning toward the camera at this point. Like you guys were alluding to, having the flexibility and control of the camera's settings seems important for artwork as well, since there are so many variables at play with lighting and such.

    I'm looking into the camera options you mentioned, @sigross. Does anyone else have other camera suggestions? Or tips about what I should look for in a camera?



  • @sigross Also, thank you for the helpful link. Learning about the polarizing filter seems really important.



  • @kathrynadebayo Worth getting a fluid head for a tripod too. The Manfrotto MVH500AH Pro Fluid Video Tripod Head with with an acratech levelling base has saved me so much time levelling shots (built in spirit level) and shooting overhead for smaller works. I have a Manfrotto 190GO! carbon fibre tripod. I like to travel light when out shooting. But if you're not travelling with it, an aluminium one will do. I like this one because I can shoot at 90 degrees with it, as the central column has two positions.

    This is what I watched to choose my kit, not too expensive either VIDEO about Fluid Head best setup by Hudson Henry


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