How to Photograph Graffiti

There are a few basic things to remember when taking pictures of graf. First of all, you are documenting an art form, and not creating art on your own--don't be creative with your shot. Get as big an image of the piece as possible, disregarding other interesting things that might be close to the piece. If you are interested in showing where a piece is located, fine, do that, but if you are interested in getting the most info out of the piece, only consider it when you are taking your flix, and get as close as you can to the wall, billboard, train, or whatever it is you're taking the picture of.

Use 100 speed film. I don't know anything about film, but this is all I use. From what I understand it is for still things (not action shots), and allows the most richness of color to be captured. You will notice a difference when you start to use 100 speed as compared to 200 or 400.

Stand directly in front of the piece you are taking pictures of. This is one of the most important rules. If you are standing on the side, not directly in front, you get a weird perspective and miss the full impact of the piece. Sometimes it is necessary to take a shot from the side, but most times taking more than one picture of the piece from right in front will alleviate these problems. (see cheesy diagram, below.)

If you need to take more than one picture to capture the whole piece, then make sure you stand at the same distance from the piece with each photo.

     \  x  x  x  x  /    Illustration of taking more than one
      \/ \/ \/ \/ \/     photo of a single piece. 1-position of photographer
      1  2  3  4  5      in first shot, 2-position of photographer in
                         2nd shot
                         \/--view of camera 

Using this technique, it's possible to get all the details in a piece and get a bigger image of it.

(Susan says) Make sure the photos overlap a little when using the technique Brett describes. That way you can put them back together later easily. Also, if you have to take pictures at night, remember to point the flash up or down, or at an angle other than straight on the wall, so it won't make a glare spot on the piece. (Brett Webb)

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