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Thread: What Lens to Use ?

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    Wolf's Avatar
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    What Lens to Use ?

    Hi...

    I am in a bit of a dilemma as to what lens to use, a friend of mine will have a collection of his paintings on display at a gallery in Oxford in a few weeks and as asked me to individually photograph each one. I am contemplating just using a prime 50mm lens with polarising filter, tripod and taking my transportable studio flash with me.
    I would be gratful for any comments and ideas on this subject....thank you

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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    I would say the first thing to consider is what size are the paintings and what working space is available. If possible, do some trial shots. A prime lens, whichever size works best, should be ideal for this work.

    That should allow you to work out your best lens options. I'm a bit unsure about using a polarising filter unless there is excessive glare from the painting.

    The only other comment I would make is to get absolutely square with the painting.

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    Wolf's Avatar
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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    Thanks for the comments Geoff, in your opinion why do you think a prime lens would be the best choice ?

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    Jim B.'s Avatar
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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    If you have the time to do some reading I recommend this book.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...t_Science.html
    Maybe do a search for "Family of Angles" .If you can find the explaination for that,it should help you understand what you will be dealing with.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf View Post
    Hi...

    I am in a bit of a dilemma as to what lens to use, a friend of mine will have a collection of his paintings on display at a gallery in Oxford in a few weeks and as asked me to individually photograph each one. I am contemplating just using a prime 50mm lens with polarising filter, tripod and taking my transportable studio flash with me.
    I would be gratful for any comments and ideas on this subject....thank you
    Hi Glyn,

    Welcome to the CiC forums from me, great to have you join us.

    I would recommend you find out the frame sizes of your friend's artwork, at the very least the largest and smallest, then work out, by experimentation with trying to frame a tape measure at those sizes, whether the 50mm is going to be suitable, or will require too much/too little distance between camera and subject - the angle of view a 50mm gives depends whether you're shooting with 'normal' 1.5/1.6 crop factor DSLR (or FF, or even 4/3).

    Is there a reason apart from just recording them in the gallery for not taking shots earlier (under more controlled lighting), which might be needed for insurance purposes anyway?

    Depending on the gallery; purpose built or wall space in a room somewhere, you may have to contend with mixed lighting (daylight, tungten, etc.) that'll make life difficult. As will the pictures being mounted high on the wall and requiring a large, tall, weighty tripod.

    I assume you'll have private access?
    And the gallery owner's permission?

    So many questions ...

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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf View Post
    Thanks for the comments Geoff, in your opinion why do you think a prime lens would be the best choice ?
    A good prime lens will give a sharper image with less risk of distortion than a similar size zoom, particularly if the light is tricky. Many zooms give poor results at their extreme ends; so if using a zoom, make sure it is around the middle of it's length.

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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    The some ideas, but often these all cannot be incorporated unless you have exclusive gallery access...

    Tripod mounted camera with the sensor (focal plane) exactly parallel with the image face...
    Parallel shooting can be tricky if artwork is not flat on wall...
    Avoid wide angle focal length if possible (avoiding distortion)...
    Shoot with lens having least barrel/pincushion distortion...
    You will not need a macro lens because of size of subject but, macros often have the least distortion when shooting a flat surface...
    I would shoot in the "sweet zone" of the lens (usually about 2 stops down from maximum aperture) you have absolutely no worries about DOF...
    Of course, use mirror lock-up and trip shutter with remote release or self timer. (Not quite as important is flash is your primary light source but, won't hurt)...
    Avoid ambient light in shooting room if possible - especially windows (shoot at night if windows cannot be avoided or covered)...
    Shoot with either continuous lights or studio strobes incorporating modeling lights (using hotshoe flash is shooting blind)...
    Shoot white target for each painting...
    Cross lighting at approximately 45 degree angles (adjust lights depending on surface of artwork)...
    If at all possible - if art is covered with glass remove it...
    Wear dark clothing if surface of artwork is reflective..
    If possible, polarize light sources. There is large polarizing material available...
    Finally, I would also bracket my exposures...

    HOWEVER...
    Your friend may not want photographs of his artwork alone. That would be a lot easier to shoot in his studio where you have absolute access. He might want photographs of his images being displayed in the studio including the environment around the artwork and possibly people looking at it.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 18th March 2011 at 03:02 PM.

  8. #8
    Wolf's Avatar
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    Re: What Lens to Use ?

    Thank you every one for your informative posts to the thread, it has given me a good insight to how I will approach the shoot at the gallery.
    Many thanks Dave for your welcome to the forum

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