Preparing Your Image for Entry
Guidelines to preparing your images for online submission: Please submit the best image you can.
All images must be high quality .jpeg or .jpg image files. Before you read the rest of this, you might want to photograph your work and look at it on the largest screen you can find. If you have a desktop or laptop computer, that is ideal. Phone screens are so small that you are taking a chance, but if that is all you have, zoom in and look carefully. If your image is sharp and the colors are correct, then you should be ready to prepare it for submittal. Scroll down the page for that. If not, read the suggestions below.
Some tips for getting the best image you can:
Today, virtually any digital camera as well as any recent phone will take an excellent quality image. Set your camera to the highest possible quality image it allows. Use good lighting on your artwork without any glass in front of it. This means checking for hot spots (that is, an area that is receiving more light than the rest of the work) as well as shadows (for instance, it is on an easel and the strip at the top is casting a shadow). If your work is at all shiny, glare can be an issue. Rearrange until the light is good.
Light should be balanced for daylight if possible (most light bulbs now are). If you cannot find a good spot, outdoors in open shade where no sunlight will reflect a strong color back on the work (like a red wall nearby). Auto white balance is very good today but if your artwork doesn’t have a neutral white in it, your colors may be skewed. It is a good idea to place a neutral white paper next to your work if your colors don’t look like your painting and try again. It is much easier to get it right at this stage than to try to fix it later!
Use a tripod for your camera if you have one. If you don’t have a tripod, be sure you hold the camera still. Setting the camera on a pile of books or other solid support will work. Press the release slowly and steadily. Make sure that the two vertical sides of your painting are perpendicular with the sides of the image viewer. Having these line up is critical to avoiding distortion. Very small amounts can be cropped.
Preparation for submittal:
You must crop out all parts of the photo that are not the actual painting; do not show mat, frame, etc, only the painting itself. There may be choices about the aspect ratio (format shape). Just drag the corner arrows until you are barely inside the edges of the image.
Save the crop.
If the image is too dark or light, adjust the exposure, likely called brightness. You should not need to adjust the contrast but if you do need to adjust the contrast, go very carefully so as not to overdo it. Too much contrast will make your work look very harsh very quickly!
Sharpening is another adjustment to be very careful with. Most if not all, cameras apply some sharpening to jpg files, so it will likely be fine as is. Again, be very, very careful with sharpening. Incorrectly done, it can affect your image in unexpected ways.
You should be ready to resize the image now. There will be a choice of how to size, ie, by pixels or inches. Choose pixels. Enter no more than 900 pixels on the longer side, that is, for a horizontal format, the width should be than 900 pixels or less; for vertical format, the height will be 900 pixels or less; for a square format both dimensions are 900 pixels.)
There will be a choice of whether or not to lock the aspect ratio. Choose yes, the shorter side will automatically be entered. There will be choices about resampling. Don’t mess with that, allow the defaults to remain. Click OK and then “Save as” so you still have your original. Name and save the new image. It is ready to submit. That is really all there is to it.
Some software to use to resize
All of these work essentially alike. The names of tools may differ and the number of possible edits may differ but they work the same.
If you have Windows 10, you have Paint 3D that came with it. It is limited to crop and resize, but if your image is already good, that will likely be enough. Very easy to use. Open it, click file browse to find your image. Just above the image select ‘crop’ and drag the circles at the corners to crop it. Now choose ‘canvas’ in the gray bar at the top. Click ‘lock aspect ratio’ and ‘resize image with canvas’ and change the larger of width or height to 900 (making sure it is pixels, not percent). Click ‘save as’ on the menu on the upper left and save as a jpg in whatever folder you like. You now have a usable file.
Also free with Windows 10 (and maybe Windows 8 as well) is Photos. It does a little more editing than Paint 3D. Find your image and click ‘edit and create’. You can straighten it if necessary, then crop it with aspect ratio set at ‘custom’. Now select ‘adjustments’ at the top and you can adjust the ‘light’ and ‘color’. Be very careful with ‘color’, you probably don’t need it. Clarity will sharpen. Recommend no more than a setting of 3 or 4 if any. You likely don’t need any adjustment except ‘light’. Click ‘save a copy’ at the bottom. It will return you to the main screen. Right click on the image and select ‘define custom dimensions’. Change the largest dimensions to 900, make sure ‘maintain aspect ratio’ is checked, leave the ‘quality’ alone and click ‘save’.
Many cameras come with basic editing software that will likely do the same things. I have Nikon and the software that came with it allows basic edits and has a ‘Convert’ feature that allows resizing. It did a fine job. Check your camera manual.
If you are going to use your phone, you will need to find an app that will crop and resize. You very likely already have one on your phone. There are many available but as mentioned before, the screen is small and it may be more difficult to use these as compared to a device with a larger screen.
There are many free softwares out there. Here are two:
Photoscape X – this is a free one available for both Windows and Mac. Very easy to use, ad minimal. To use, open it and select editor on the top left. Drag and drop your image into the workspace. Select crop from the box on the right, click on a corner of the image and drag the selection to select only your image. Leave the choices alone and click crop at the bottom. Now select resize from the same box, select pixels and change the longest side to 900 or less. Make sure preserve aspect ratio is checked and leave the rest of the choices alone. Click apply. Click save. Select save as and make sure you select the folder you want to put it in. Click save
Photo Pos Pro 3 - this one was easy to use, it had two interfaces, one very simple and one with many tools available. It was quite easy to use but had an ad come up that was quite annoying. It is looking for a donation of $10 to do away with ads or $19.99 to subscribe for a year. I was able to get rid of the large ad and then it was quite easy to use.
Adobe Photoshop Express – I don’t recommend this one for our purposes. It appears to be mostly geared to snapshot sharing. It is only listed here because it came up often in searches.
This is a link to a video that shows you how to photograph your work and prepare it for submittal. If you view this, please disregard the part where she shows you how to increase the size of the original image! The whole video lasts about one hour.