The Minnesota State Arts Board offers these tips for creating work samples.
If you plan to take your own slides, the tips below will get you started. You don’t have to follow all of the suggestions to get good pictures, but the more care you take in documenting your work, the better and more accurate your slides will be.
CAMERA: A 35 mm camera with interchangeable lenses is the best choice for taking professional slides and photographs. A 35mm lens is good for general use, but a lens in the 85mm to 105mm range is superior for photographic artwork. It’s an excellent length for portraits; it compresses distances, and it will not distort objects near the camera. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera; auto focus cameras are easier to use, but give you less control over the results.
FILM: Use slow slide film for color accuracy and sharpness, such as Kodachrome ISO 25 or 64, Ektachrome Elite ISO 50 or 100, or Fujichrome ISO 50 or 100. ISO refers to the speed of the film; all are available in either 24 or 36 exposures. Allow more time for processing Kodachrome film.
COMPOSITION: Panels are interested in viewing the work itself, so photograph each piece separately against a neutral background to eliminate distractions. Fill the view finder with the work, or place it on a flat black background. Shoot your art just prior to framing, without mats, frames, or glass. You may want to include close-up shots detailing your work, as well as views of the complete piece. When photographing sculpture or any 3-dimensional work, shoot 2-3 slides from several different angles.
LIGHTING: Regular indoor lighting (incandescent or fluorescent) can give your photos a yellow or green cast. The slide film mentioned above is to be used with natural daylight or with electronic flash. If you plan to use existing indoor lighting, choose a faster film, such as Ektachrome 400. When using an electronic flash attachment, bounce the flash off white walls, ceiling, or mat board to prevent “hot spots” on the art. Look carefully in your viewfinder before you press the shutter and move in as close as your camera will allow. If you notice any distracting reflections, shadows, or a displeasing background, rearrange the setting.
PROCESSING: Once your work has been photographed in a professional manner, follow through with expert processing and duplication. Don’t be in a hurry to get your slides back; look for quality processing over lowest cost. If you want prints from your slides, have them made from 4 x 5 inch “interneg.” Get duplicate slides made of your best images and submit duplicates with your application. This way. you can keep your original slides and send out your best work every time without fear of loss.
Remember, your slides are often projected 2 or 3 at a time, so consider how they work together and enhance one another. Select images that will support your plan or project, and that reflect your most serious and complete areas of artistic expression.