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Thread: Best lens for shooting Artwork

  1. #1

    Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi,
    I have been looking through your excellent forum but unable to find an answer to my question. (my apologies if I have missed it)
    I intend to photograph artwork of varying sizes with the intention to produce prints up to A2 in size. I have been considering purchasing a Canon EOS7d and a Canon 50mm EF F1.4 USM prime lens. I would appreciate any comments on this combination or any other recommendations.
    Many thanks in advance for your time
    John

  2. #2
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    By all means spend that sort of cash if you have it but a 550D will give you the same quality for a fraction of the price as will a 50mm f1.8 lens over the 1.4.

    Better yet would be a scanner, larger works of art can be scanned in sections and stitched together. You will also get even better quality this way while saving even more money.

  3. #3

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi Black Pearl many thanks for the reply.
    The items mentioned are in my price range and yes I had looked at the 550d but preferred the Magnesium Alloy body of the 7D ( I had read elsewhere that some people had had problems with the Polycarbonate case). Also some of the pictures being taking would be either in the Artists home/studio and/or galleries making the scanning option harder.
    John

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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi John,

    I've no experience in this type of work,but have read a little about it.
    Here's a quick tutorial you might find useful.

    http://mgreerphoto.blogspot.com/2008...h-artwork.html

  5. #5

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi Jim B,
    Thanks for that. I will have a look when I get home our filtering system at work has blocked that site so unable to view

  6. #6
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Hi John,

    I've no experience in this type of work,but have read a little about it.
    Here's a quick tutorial you might find useful.

    http://mgreerphoto.blogspot.com/2008...h-artwork.html
    The tutorial you reference is quite good. However, I have one point in which I disagree with the tutorial: I don't like hotshoe flashes for this type if work because you are shooting blind. I prefer either continuous lighting or, preferably, studio strobes because I want to have WYSIWYG shooting capability. It is far easier to arrange your lighting when you can see the results prior to snapping the shutter. The continuous light or the modeling light of a studio strobe will provide that capablity.

    I am also not sure about using umbrellas in this type of work. Although I like umbrellas, you have the least control over your lighting when using them. They could be just fine but, possibly there might be a problem. I think that I might prefer a softbox or a shoot-through umbrella (especially one with a black covering through which the light protrudes), over a standard "shoot-into" umbrella.

    When I worked in a U.S. Navy photo lab and did a lot of this type of work, I used studio strobes with large polarizing filters. The polarizing filters could be adjusted to prevent reflections in just about ant type of artwork. I did not use a filter on my lens. I only polarized my light sources. This is what I mean by a polarizing filter for a light source. There are commercial mounts for this type of filter or a photographer could fabricate his/her own.

    http://www.amazon.com/Adorama-Mounte.../dp/B00009R8IL

    Is far as an answer to the original question, the focal legth of the lens would be determined by the size of the artwork and the space in which you are shooting. I would choose a pair of macro lenses such as the 50mm or 60mm + 100mm Canon because of their sharpmess and because I believe that macro lenses will provide a better rendition of a flat surface. The shorter focal length lens would only be used when the the art is hanging in an area in which camera to subject distance is limited.

    When I shot in the Navy lab, I used a copy camera and a lens that was optimized for flat surface rendition. If you are shooting with a DSLR, I would strongly recommend using a tripod and ensuring that the focal plane (sensor) is as paralled to the artwork as possible and that the height of the camera is right about at the center (top to bottom) of the artwork. Camera placement would be facilitated by the use of a tripod dolly so you could push the tripod back and forth in small increments.

    http://www.google.com/products/catal...d=0CGAQ8wIwAA#

    A problem could arise when a large artwork is hanging rather high on a wall. Pointing the camera up will cause distortion. A tall tripod or a ladder with the capability of mounting a tripod head on the various steps. Simply a 3/8" hole drilled in the step with a 3/8" bolt to mount the tripod head would do the job....

    Other annoying problems which sometimes occur are the painting not being mounted directly and flat to the wall, but hanging at a slight angle. You would then need to move the painting or, if that is not possible, place your camera to that the sensor is paralled to the surface of the painting. When there are room lights or windows causing reflections, either move the painting to a dark space or shoot at night. It is always best to shoot with only your photographic light sources. Ambient light is a PITA.

    Doing a Google search using the parameters: Photographing Artwork" will get you multiple hits on sites with good information.

  7. #7

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi rpcrowe,
    thank you for the comprehensive reply.
    I was planning on using continuous lighting softboxes so that was great to have that confirmed.
    I had seen comments about the use of Macro lenses due to their ability to shoot much closer, which could be an advantage with small artwork. My reason, not borne out by experience, was thinking that the f1.4 lens would result in a sharper image than the macro's at f2.5 (50mm) or f2.8 (60mm). If this was not a problem then I might be tempted by the macro.
    At this stage I do not know what size range of artwork would be involved so may have to eventually have a selection of lenses but have to start somewhere.
    Cheers
    John

  8. #8
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    The macro lenses will almost always provide the optimum sharpness. In reality, you do not need actual macro capability unless you want to shoot an area 24x36mm with a full frame camera or 15.7 x23.6mm for Nikon 1.5x cameras and 14.8 x22.7mm for Canon 1.6x crop cameras.

    I am sure that your 50mm f/1.4 lens will do a very adequate job; especially if you shoot at about f/5.6 or f/8. Remember, you do not need a great DOF when shooting art work nor, do you need a fast aperture if your camera/lens is tripod mounted...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 28th January 2012 at 01:59 AM.

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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    And don't forget the wonderful ability of software to produce panoramas. So the same camera can take higher res images of smaller parts of the artwork, stitch together in software and hey presto. Huge file, masses of info from which to process before sizing for printing.

    Oh yeah, if you can shoot from as far back as possible using a telephoto lens, then compression will minimise distortion effects.
    Graham

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    I do a fair bit of this kind of work -- in my opinion, some of the key bits are ...

    - Even Lighting. Softboxes are ideal - but be sure to experiment with positioning. You want them far enough back to illuminate the art evenly, and at an angle that captures the right amount of texture, but avoids direct reflection (remember that paintings are actually THREE dimensional).

    - Position the lens accurately, with minimal overshoot & minimal geometry error.

    - Be sure to shoot (at a minimum) a gray card - and preferably a full 24 patch colour checker to build a custom profile from; artists are generally very fussy about colour accuracy.

    A macro lens (100mm is fine) is ok - another option is to use an extension tube. Personally, I use a TS-E 90mm lens for this kind of work.

    Shooting on location is a lot more difficult than in a studio - if you HAVE to do it on location, try to do it at a time where ambient light levels can be subdued (they can give uneven lighting and introduce colour casts)

  11. #11
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    I intend to photograph artwork of varying sizes with the intention to produce prints up to A2 in size. I have been considering purchasing a Canon EOS7d and a Canon 50mm EF F1.4 USM prime lens. I would appreciate any comments on this combination or any other recommendations.
    The best single Camera / Lens combination, for this purpose, is the 50/2.5 and FF camera.
    Because of: fewest flat plane distortions (i.e. best reproduction of a flat plane); Sharpness; Acutance; lack of Flare and flexibility of Working Distance.

    Considering other lenses and cameras mentioned:
    That is not to say the other combination will not be very good, and (especially working on location) useful to have the other two lenses: being the TS-E 90 and 100/2.8. (both with a FF camera)
    Working on location, the worst lens to choose (so far mentioned) would be the 50/1.8MkII, the next worse being the 50/1.4.

    A tripod and accurate measure (for Focal Plane to corner distance of Artwork) is mandatory for all location work.

    WW

  12. #12

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Many thanks for your comments and apologies for delay in replying, I had been away for a while.

    rpcrowe: The macro lens may be helpful in the future as I have been thinking that later on I might try photographing smaller 3d objects. I was more concerned re the sharpness of the lens.

    grahamh: Same as above again thinking that eventually a telephoto lens would be purchased but more for personal use.

    Colin: Continuous lighting Softboxes are going to be used and have the Xrite colour checker for profile building. The Tilt/shift lenses are beyond my price range at present.

    William W, Bill Again price range is a problem, would love a FF camera but unless I can convince my bank manager (wife) I think that option is on hold for now.
    Why do you consider the 50mm f1.4 a bad lens and would you recommend any others around that kind of price?

    Many thanks everyone for taking the time to reply it is appreciated
    John

  13. #13
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    would love a FF camera but unless I can convince my bank manager (wife) I think that option is on hold for now.
    OK.
    We could debate whether a used 5D + 50/2.5 would be cheaper and also better than a 7D and 50/1.4 – that’s something to consider.


    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    Why do you consider the 50mm f1.4 a bad lens.
    I think you might have misunderstood my words.
    The 50/1.4 is NOT a bad lens.
    It is just the second worst lens (of all the lenses mentioned here) to use for the specific job about which you have asked.
    The reasons are that it does not perform as well, when compared to the 50/2.5 (and the TSE-90 and the 100/2.8) in all the aspects which I listed above.
    Depending upon the level of scrutiny, you may get more than adequate results using the 50/1.4.
    But, in your response you write what you implied in your OP:
    “I was more concerned re the sharpness of the lens . . .”
    In which case the 50/1.4 is the second worst lens of the lenses here mentioned.

    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    and would you recommend any others (than the 50/1.4) around that kind of price?
    I have, but perhaps it was not clear the 50/2.5 lens would be suitable to use on a 7D though it could be more difficult regarding the working distance when in tight areas, when photographing large Art Works and that is why I recommended a FF camera - for Working Distance flexibility.

    I would expect the 50/2.5 is less expensive than the 50/1.4

    I would be pretty close to betting a Mars Bar that the 50/2.5 is (one of the handful) of sharpest lenses in the Canon line-up and it is the flattest all of the lenses, Canon makes.

    On another matter related to cost, you should consider the 60D – same guts as the 7D but the bonus of a swivel screen.

    Swivel Screen = i.e. for live view focusing and / or difficult angles when viewing /framing / focussing on site with immoveable subjects – especially artworks which are hanging high on walls and when using a tripod-extensions and / or step ladders.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 29th January 2012 at 07:52 PM.

  14. #14

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi William W,
    My apologies for the misunderstanding. I think you have convinced me that the 50mm f2.5 is the lens to go for. I think still the 7d because of price unless the lottery come up in the next week!
    Thank you for your help and advice
    John

  15. #15
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    No apology is necessary.

    I suggest printing this thread for reference to be used as a check list for "the preparing" and "the doing" of it on location.

    Especially the detailed points of RichardPCrowe and ColinSouthern

    Good luck with it.

    WW

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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    Colin: Continuous lighting Softboxes are going to be used and have the Xrite colour checker for profile building. The Tilt/shift lenses are beyond my price range at present.
    These are fine in theory, but will be seriously under-powered compared to strobe units. Basically you just need light CONTROL - continuous lights are fine in theory, but in practice, try to eliminate other ambient lighting as it'll contaminate the colour and possibly give uneven lighting.

  17. #17

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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    One I did recently to show you how it should look pretty much straight out of the camera ...

    Best lens for shooting Artwork

    www.bellamygallery.co.nz (shameless plug for Michelle!) (promise I'll do that other on in the studio next few days!)

  18. #18
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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Johna--

    If you are sure you are going to use a crop sensor camera like the 7D, and you think you may want to do macro, perhaps it is worth considering the EF-S 60mm macro instead of the 50 f/2.5. I had a 50 f/2.5 but sold it fairly quickly to trade up the 60 once I got hooked on macro. The 60 is a true 1:1 macro, while the 50 is 1:2. The 60 has USM focusing and full time manual focusing, neither of which the 50 has, if I remember right. And it is a truly wonderful lens. On the other hand, it costs more, and it is not usable on a 'full frame' camera.

  19. #19

    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Hi Colin and DanK,
    Thanks again for your thoughts.
    The 7D + 60mm macro sounds really good. In the ideal world I would just find the extra 600+ for the 5D and then maybe the 50mm macro to start off with but I do not think that will be possible.
    Cheers
    John

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    Re: Best lens for shooting Artwork

    Quote Originally Posted by johna1954 View Post
    Hi Colin and DanK,
    Thanks again for your thoughts.
    The 7D + 60mm macro sounds really good. In the ideal world I would just find the extra 600+ for the 5D and then maybe the 50mm macro to start off with but I do not think that will be possible.
    Cheers
    John
    Hi John,

    I think this would work fine - at the end of the day, it's normal practice to adjust the geometry in Photoshop anyway (just a fact of life). It's lighting that'll make or break a good shot; at a MINIMUM, be sure to shoot a grey card reference.

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