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Part 1: Image Quality, Image Size, White Balance, and ISO

In this section we'll review some tips for focusing your camera, and teach you how to avoid camera shake. We'll also review how to use your camera's basic settings so that, as you photograph your artwork, you'll get great results.

If you are new to digital photography, be sure to read your owner's manual. Get familiar with your manual's index. This will help you find things quickly when you're out shooting. You will be able to solve problems quickly on your own.


Four Basic Settings

There are four basic settings that you need to learn how to control on your digital camera. These are:

  • image quality,
  • image size,
  • white balance,
  • and ISO.

The owner's manual will show you how to find these settings on your camera.


Image Quality

I recommend that you set your image quality setting to the best possible option. Image quality may be described as basic, fine, superfine, normal, high quality, or super high quality. Make sure that you choose the best option available. This setting affects how much your images are compressed by your camera.

Best Quality

Best Quality

Low Quality

Low Quality


Image Size

I also recommend that you max out your camera's image size setting. Image size is often referred to as "pixel dimensions." A camera's pixel dimensions options might include 1200 pixels (height) by 1600 pixels (width), or 2000 by 3000, and so on. Use the largest setting your camera will allow. The image size options on some cameras may simply include "small," "medium," and "large." In that case, shoot large.


White Balance

Use your owner's manual to find out where you would change your white balance settings. The white balance function color-corrects your images, inside of your camera. There are various icons that represent different lighting situations. Select the one that matches your conditions. These icons might include:

Icons Description
A sun, for sunny conditions;
Clouds, for cloudy conditions;
Casting a shadow, for shade;
A light bulb, for indoor or household lights; or
A thin rectangle, for fluorescent tubes.

For the lighting demonstrations in these videos, which cover how to photograph your artwork, use the preset that mimics a household light bulb. The soft white General Electric light bulbs are an excellent match for the Tungsten white balance setting on your camera.


Auto White

The white balance can be set to "auto" mode, or you can make your own custom setting. Only use the "auto" white balance when you know that there is some white information in your scene. For "auto white balance" to work properly, the camera needs to see something white. It needs a white-neutral reference point to balance out any color cast.

Color Casts

All light sources have a color cast. Your camera's white balance functions are designed to correct this issue. Color cast can range from a red color all the way up to a cooler, colder blue color. If you choose the wrong white balance setting in your camera, your artwork will have an improper color cast.

Correct Color

Correct Color

Red Color Cast

Red Color Cast

Custom White Balance

Your owner's manual will show you how to set up a custom white balance setting. For a custom setting, you're the person who brings the neutral reference point into the scene. This allows the camera to remove all color cast from that neutral reference point. Then, you can begin shooting. A white piece of paper works really well for this. Just make sure you fill up the camera's frame as you shoot your white, neutral reference point.



The ISO setting is a number that ranges between 50 and 1600 (or more). The ISO setting changes the sensitivity of your camera to light. When you increase the ISO, you are increasing your camera's sensitivity. More electricity is running through the camera. Images with a higher ISO look noisy or pixilated. To play it safe, shoot your artwork at 100 ISO, or the lowest ISO setting you have in your camera.