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Thread: Photographing paintings

  1. #1

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    Photographing paintings

    My son has asked me to take some shots of his paintings so that he can show them on the web. They are primarily acrylic on board with some on canvas. Any suggestions for set up would be appreciated.

    I have two speedlites with diffusers and a wireless transmitter available and other equipment as listed below.

    Peter

  2. #2

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    Re: Photographing paintings

    You are going to need to do your best to minimize reflections/specular light from the artwork. Try bouncing the flash off of the walls or ceiling for a more diffused and less specular light. I'd setup a stand for the art, use a tripod, and even use the mirror lock-up feature w/ remote trigger if you have it. Not necessary - but why not in such an easy shooting environment?

    You will probebly want to shoot the art "dead-on". Don't put the art on an easel (spelling?) that's angeled and have the camera level. You will keystone the art and have to correct in post, which won't have as good as results as if you shot stright on.

  3. #3

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    Re: Photographing paintings

    Hi Peter,

    There are a few "tricks" that will help a lot ...

    - Hang the artwork vertically on a wall

    - Mount the camera on a tripod

    - Ensure the camera is precisely aligned with the centre of the artwork, and is "square on" in both the vertical and horizontal planes (to minimise distortion).

    - Use a long lens (again, to minimise distortion) (pref. close to 200mm)

    - Use a gray card to take a reference colour temperature shot

    Lighting can have a big effect; usually start by positioning the lights at 45 degrees to the work, with diffusers on, but not too close (because more light will reach the outside of the work than reaches the centre). Try to avoid what's called "the family of angles" (angles where light is reflected directly back towards the camera.

    Varying the angle of the lights will also increase or decrease the texture of the capture (the closer the lights to the wall that the artwork is on, the more texture you'll see).

    - Shoot in manual mode at X-Sync speed (prob 1/200th) 3 stops down from your lenses maximum aperture (adjust the lighting power to suit); check and adjust focus manually with live view set to 10x magnification if you have it, although normal AF will probably be just fine.

    No need to worry about movement at there's no ambient light getting in, so flash will freeze the action (I've often just shot them hand held).

    Hope this helps!

  4. #4

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    Re: Photographing paintings

    Thanks Kent and Colin, much appreciated.

    Peter

  5. #5
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing paintings

    Yes they are right, but I wouldn't ever use a flash. Put them near a window, :0

  6. #6
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    Re: Photographing paintings

    If the acrylic is applied thickly, with lots of texture, you may have problems with highlights (reflections) throughout the image. If so, you will need to pay attention to lighting. But it sounds like you already have a full studio setup, which will make things much easier.

    Order a roll of Rosco polarizing sheet from Calumet http://www.calumetphoto.com/ctl?ac.u...rizing%20sheet ($40) and set some up in front of your lights, keeping orientation the same. Place a polarizing filter on your camera and rotate it until the highlights disappear. You may have to kill all other lights that might contribute to the situation, and depending on your studio setup, that includes the sun. If you polarize the lights, you can control the highlights.

  7. #7

    Re: Photographing paintings

    I am new here so hello to all. I have just joined an internet site to sell art prints (Imagekind). having photographed my paintings wiuth my fuji 6 megapixel camera, I find the pixel width/length is not big enough to translate to prints of a reasonable size- a photo of 36'' x 30'' painting - est i've been able to get is 16'' x 11'' print. I can see I need a bigger pixel camera but was wondering what other considerations- obviously I want true cplour crisp resolution. Have been looking at pentax x90 12 MP and Sony DSLRA290L Alpha Digital SLR. What do you think? Please Help!

  8. #8

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    Re: Photographing paintings

    Quote Originally Posted by lanageuse View Post
    I am new here so hello to all. I have just joined an internet site to sell art prints (Imagekind). having photographed my paintings wiuth my fuji 6 megapixel camera, I find the pixel width/length is not big enough to translate to prints of a reasonable size- a photo of 36'' x 30'' painting - est i've been able to get is 16'' x 11'' print. I can see I need a bigger pixel camera but was wondering what other considerations- obviously I want true cplour crisp resolution. Have been looking at pentax x90 12 MP and Sony DSLRA290L Alpha Digital SLR. What do you think? Please Help!
    Hi Lanageuse,

    The number of pixels required for a given size print is the source of much confusion on the internet. Basically, you can print as big as you like, from a camera that has as few MP as you like - but - if you view it from a distance and then view it from progressively closer and closer distances, at some point, the lack of detail will start to become noticeable. So the question really becomes "How many pixels do you need to print an image that needs to be viewed at "X" distance" - and even then, one needs to define what is an acceptable quality.

    As a rule, the bigger the image, the further back people view it - and thus the lower the resolution can be. You'll see images on large billboards that look fine even though they were shot with a 6MP camera, but up-close of course, you can see the degradation. Some people insist that an image must be clear and sharp at ANY viewing distance (although I can't really understand why they insist on this); as a rule, the minimum viewing distance for photographers is limited only by the length of their noses!

    If you're looking for something 36" x 30" that's clear and sharp when viewed "up close", I don't think youre going to be able to do it. Lets do the maths ...

    If we assume that the minimum resolution for such a print is 180PPI (Pixels per inch), then you're going to need pixel dimensions of 180 x 36 and 180 x 30 which equals 6480 x 5400 which means you'd need a camera with 35MP (and that's assuming that we frame the image PERFECTLY at the time of capture, which in reality can never happen. If you'd settle for 100 PPI then that would drop the MP requirement 11MP, but 100PI is starting to look a bit jagged once you start getting close.

    So the short answer to your question is "unless you can afford a 40MP (or higher) medium format digital back, you're going to have to compromise on viewing distance". The other short answer is "get as many MP as you can afford".

    Does this help?

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing paintings

    Quote Originally Posted by lanageuse View Post
    I am new here so hello to all. I have just joined an internet site to sell art prints (Imagekind). having photographed my paintings wiuth my fuji 6 megapixel camera, I find the pixel width/length is not big enough to translate to prints of a reasonable size- a photo of 36'' x 30'' painting - est i've been able to get is 16'' x 11'' print. I can see I need a bigger pixel camera but was wondering what other considerations- obviously I want true cplour crisp resolution. Have been looking at pentax x90 12 MP and Sony DSLRA290L Alpha Digital SLR. What do you think? Please Help!
    Hi "lanageuse",

    Welcome to the CiC forums from me, if possible, could we have a first name - thanks.

    Are you trying to print life size?
    And how close are you expecting the prints to be viewed from?

    While I agree 6MP is a bit on the small side, clearly, if you print and compare side-by-side at close range, you will probably always be disappointed in the results.

    Have you got a good 'duplication' stand set up; with adequate even lighting, etc.?
    Is it possible to see an example? - perhaps a link to your imagekind site.

    Cheers,

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