I'm having a little hard time taking photos of my pencil drawings. I recently posted a question about noise & blurriness.

Here the thing is, my art looks much better on paper but when I take photos, I see following problems:

  1. It loses contrast
  2. Dark shades becomes little bright (Which shouldn't be)

See the photo taken here:

enter image description here The darkness of spot marked by green line is very close to my actual drawing, but same darkness becomes brighter at many other places (marked by red). And some white dots (imperfections in drawing), which are less visible in actual drawing, becomes more highlighted here (see yellow circle).

One possible reason can be there's either too much light (I'm not sure, I've attached a photo of my room lights below) that is causing brightnes or some camera settings is wrong.

And if I decrease the light of room, the dark spots become less brighter and better but overall photo becomes darker. Which is bad again.

Here is the photo info:

enter image description here

Here is another photo, using natural light from window, in which left portion is better but right portion became brighter.

enter image description here

Here is photo of 2 lights in my room. I placed the artwork (A3 size) on the mirror that is in the middle of the image.

My camera is Nikon B500 point & shoot camera.

So, is the small sensor is the reason for it? Or the light is too much or too less?

And if I want to reduce these problems (brighter spots, one side is better other is brighter) using Photoshop, is it possible to do it?

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of What are the best practices for taking pictures of a canvas? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jun 1, 2019 at 22:09
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Consider using a large-format scanner. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jun 1, 2019 at 22:26
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ To what end do you need to take the picture? Are these for critical portfolio images or for sale images or simply for the ‘gram? I ask because the level of effort and investment you should take changes a bit based on your need \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Jun 1, 2019 at 23:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ For sharing on my Facebook page and instagram and Portfolio \$\endgroup\$
    – Vikas
    Jun 2, 2019 at 4:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It is possible that the lighter parts are actually reflections. Moving the lights, using larger light sources (softboxes) or using a polarizing filter could solve that. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Jun 2, 2019 at 10:18

3 Answers 3


Lead pencil drawings are problematic to photograph due to the properties of graphite. Graphite is a metal not a typical organic pigment, per se.

Pencil lead is a metal/clay combination. The clay holds the pencil "lead" shape. Various proportions of each determine whether the mark made is dark or light with the same amount of pressure upon the point.

When a line is drawn on paper, it has its own "highlights" and "shadows" which you can clearly see with a sufficient magnifier. If you have a heavily shaded area, you can use it as a pretty efficient reflector as it is of metal (graphite.) When lit, heavy depositions can appear white or black depending on the reflection angles involved. You can see this by looking at your artwork under normal conditions by changing your viewpoint relative to a light source.

The effect of the tiny highlights will be to "lighten" dark areas by reflecting bits of the light you use to illuminate your drawing(s). The minuscule highlights "dilute" the darkness with points of reflected light. The surface of the paper has hills and valleys which affects the line rendition. Each line is a shallow concave furrow which is very difficult to light evenly. Oils and acrylics are the opposite with convex shiny mounds of pigment that each have their specular highlight reflections.

Several different techniques can be used to kill or diminish the reflections including lighting techniques and by using cross-polarization (polarizers) with the light source. Some hit the artwork with dulling spray or workable fixative between layers which also helps avoiding smudges if you're not using a bridge or Mahl stick. Anti-reflection sprays also have their short-comings so they are not an ideal fix either.

Scanning was suggested but that does not remove the highlight reflection from the graphite but changes the light direction which may give the effect you were striving for.

Conform to best practices for copy/copy stand photography for acceptable results. Balanced (equal illumination) lights at 45° to copy board, camera at 90° to copy board, Polarized light, etc.

Good luck.


These are the possible reasons to my mind: 1. Incorrect picture/scene mode and/or metering mode 2. Direction of the light relative to the paper - if it is not diffused and uniform across the subject, the problem you stated could happen Is it right to assume that the source of light is towards the right side of the sketch?


When photographing artwork there are two concerns - ensuring that the light is even and is positioned in a way to minimize hot spots and minimizing surface reflections that can distort colors and contrast.

The standard way of achieving the first goal is to use a copy stand, which consists of a baseboard to place the artwork on, a pole or column to attach the camera to and two to four arms carrying identical lights off at a 45 degree angle from the baseboard.

To achieve the second goal, we use cross polarization (google "cross polarization for photographing art"). With this technique you put a polarization filter on the camera lens and then polarization filters (normally cut sheet) in front of the light sources. Then you adjust the filters on the lights so that they are oriented 90 degrees off from the orientation of the filter on the camera lens.

Of course, none of this is cheap, but you could build your own copy stand-like setup by using the wall as the baseboard, setting the camera on a tripod, setting up two identical, aim-able lamps off to the side (positioning them to be aligned at 45 degree angles from the center of the artwork) and minimizing all other room light. Getting the distances from the artwork to the lights can be tricky, as you want the coverage across the artwork to be as even as possible. Adding the cross polarization will help, but attaching polarizing film to lamps and making sure the orientation is correct is more trial and error.


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