A significant amount of information is lost when a photograph of a tattoo is smaller than real life. So, why not make your images large and take a photograph with life size in mind? You might argue that your portfolio needs to be small and fit into a notebook – but isn’t it important that your portfolio represent (in the best way possible given the equipment you have) what your tattoo looks like? There are limitations with regards to the camera equipment you might have. For example, if your camera doesn’t have enough resolution to capture the tattoo and print it at life size then you can’t expect good results scaling it to a larger size to print it. You need a 20+ megapixel camera to create an image with enough resolution to print a sleeve, leg or full back tattoo at life size. If you don’t have a 20+ megapixel camera, then you can take and print multiple images at life size to represent at least pieces of the tattoo at life size.
Quality lighting can breath some life into a flat two dimensional photograph. For the best results, don’t mix and match light bulbs or light sources because each light source produces a slightly different color balance which negatively effects the look of a tattoo when printed. Use the same bulbs and take a minute or two reading about white balance as it relates to your camera. As a general rule, “auto” isn’t the best setting. If you are using tungsten lighting (typical non-flash lighting) a tungsten setting on the camera will produce a better look. If you are using flash, use the flash setting for your camera. What else? Try lighting from the side to help create a sense of roundness. A straight on flash is generally not the best way to photograph a tattoo. Shading as the light passes around the arm or leg or back will help to represent that sense of shape and roundness.
So, the hardest problem? Showing the tattoo as it goes around the arm or leg or back, etc. So far, the hack solution is to piece together strips of the image with each strip showing a slightly different angle of the tattoo. This is not a very good solution because nobody I know can look at three or four different photo strips and assemble that into a single image in their head. So, what are the solutions? Well, many many years ago that problem surfaced with maps and showing a map of the whole earth, which is round, on a flat map. If you really want to see what the earth looks like, you need to look at a three dimensional sphere… or an image that can depict depth like a hologram or super high quality lenticular image like AMPED 3D–or you can use motion picture images (video). So for tattoos, you can either map the tattoo on a statue or mannequin, or you can split up the image (like those weird map images, and strips of image), or you can shoot video of the tattoo while the person rotates, or you can go with a hologram or AMPED 3D image. The only problem with holograms or AMPED 3D images are that you must hire somebody to do them for you. Short of that, the best alternative is video.
My recommendation based upon the above is to shoot life size where possible and shoot video to show the roundness – or have a hologram or AMPED 3D image created.Last but not least, photoshopping your images is not recommended. Artificial saturation, contrast enhancement (oh, so you discovered “levels”) and other various photoshop filters remove the “realness” that is inherent in tattoo art.
Got an opinion? Let me here it…