Bought Nikon D5000 for photographing oil paintings

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Terry1964, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. Terry1964
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    Terry1964 New Member

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    Hi,
    I have just bought a camera in order to take pictures of my art work so I can produce prints. I have no idea of how best to do this. The paintings are all in oil and approx. 24" by 30" . the camera is a Nikon D5000. I bought a tripod and a vf(?) lens for protection. I have no experience or knowledge whatsoever in photography, but figured with a decent camera and a lot of help I should be able to get some decent results. If any one can offer some advice I would greatly appreciate it.
    This is one I took yesterday in my front room, I had to do a lot with it on paintshop pro. I think I took it raw. There seems a lot of little light reflections on it from the canvas that make it appear a bit faded in comparison to the painting.
    It doesn't seem to be very sharp either esp. when enlarged to actual size.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Cheers,
    Terry
  2. reznap
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    reznap New Member

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    I'd stay at a 50mm focal length, or longer to avoid distortion. Maybe an 85mm prime. Back the camera up so the painting fills the frame, and use the sharpest aperture of the lens. Most lenses are sharpest around f/8 but it really depends on the lens. I'd light from both sides, pointing down somewhat from up high, if possible - to show some texture. I think I'd definitely diffuse the light, like with a soft box or something similar.

    Good luck, hope that helps a little.
  3. oldmacman
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    oldmacman New Member

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    I teach art and document all the major student submissions. These are the steps I use:
    - evenly light your work. Two lights at 45 works for me. A flash will give hot spots.
    - set the camera's WB to match your lighting
    - set image type to raw
    - use a tripod and set the ISO to its lowest optimized setting. (On my 5D mk II this would be 100 even though the camera is capable of 50)
    - get the work as vertical as possible (not leaning)
    - place a reference card beside the work - Black, Middle Grey, White
    - fill the viewfinder with the artwork and the reference card
    - Use a remote or shutter release to snap the pic
    - bring the image into photoshop
    - bring up curves
    - use the black point eyedropper and click on the black portion of the reference card
    - use the white point eyedropper and click on the white portion of the reference card
    - Once you import the pic to photoshop you will notice that a image is rarely square.
    - crop as close to the edges without deleting any of the painting
    - select all
    - use the Transform tool in Distort mode and drag the corners of the image to the corners of the cropped frame. This corrects for non-square and some barrel distortion. Use the Warp transform if you have curves in the middle of the edges or use lens correction in your favourite image management software.
    - save this version as your cropped, colour corrected image.
  4. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    Take the UV filter off the lens. Unless it's a high quality filter the glass probably isn't even flat on both sides and it is likely hurting the sharpness of the focus.

    You don't need it for 'protection' nor for image quality.

    LensRentals.com - Front Element Scratches

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzOLbMPe0u8[/ame]
  5. Helen B
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    Helen B New Member

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    oldmacman has given a good, thorough explanation. There are possible variations/additional notes.

    I usually photograph artwork of that size with it horizontal. That's how I'm used to using a repro stand. (I would do larger artwork with it vertical.) I check the camera with a spirit level and get its axis as near as possible to the centre of the artwork. I want to avoid having to transform in Photoshop if at all possible. I'm used to working with reproductions on reversal film for artists, where there is no real possibility of doing corrections later.

    I think that it is worth arranging a baseboard with a series of rectangles marked on it, the rectangles having the same aspect ratio as your camera. Draw the diagonals and centre the camera over where they cross (or better, move the baseboard to match the camera). This will help to align things.

    I would not usually use a target to set black and white points - I would use a target for accurate colour rendition and set the black and white points based on the values present in the artwork, taking note of how they relate to the target's values. For example oil paintings for which you wish to show brushstrokes can have values that lie outside those of a target's black and white.

    I use a black cloth or black card suspended around the camera up to the lights. The lights are at about 45 degrees. If you wish to show surface texture you can lower the lights and/or unbalance the brightness of them using gel or other power control that does not affect colour temperature.

    If you want to check the evenness and colour match of your lighting take a picture of a large sheet of white paper, then examine the values in Photoshop or whatever.

    Good luck,
    Helen
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2010
  6. Terry1964
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    Terry1964 New Member

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    Thanks every one for your help. There's quite a lot to digest so I will need to keep coming back to read through it all again and if it's ok with you all continue asking questions.

    The first thing seems to be getting the lighting right. I need lights on both sides of the painting at 45 with black card or cloth between them and the painting.
    I need to defuse the light, is this something you do with polarisation filters? also what sort of lamps and bulbs should I be looking to use?
    Taking the uv lens off could improve the sharpness, would a macro lens be better?
    Set the ISO low, I need to check the instructions on how to do that ( I really am a complete beginner:blushing:)

    Sorry for being so numb but I don't understand what is meant by setting the values for black and white and colour points with targets etc? I'm a little confused on this. Also how do I set the WB to match the lighting?

    I have loads of other questions but had better leave it there for now. Thank you for your patience.

    Terry
  7. c.cloudwalker
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    c.cloudwalker New Member

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    I am a painter and a photographer. Been a photographer much longer than a painter but, depending on what the photos are for, I will not do photos of my own paintings.

    Photographing paintings is highly specialized because it is very hard. You need to render the painting exactly as it is. Kind of. If you've ever seen photos of paintings and then seen the actual painting, you should know that is almost impossible. Photos are flat, paintings are not. How can a photo render the texture of the painting without messing up some other part of it.

    So the question is more what are the prints for and what quality do you need? If you want to sell a $20 print of one of your paintings, yes, the above posts are helpful. If you need a print that actually look like your painting, have a pro do it. But they are not cheap.

    And, no, I'm not trying to get your business. As mentioned earlier I don't shoot my own paintings...

    Now, just to answer a couple of your questions from the last post.

    Lights on both sides at 45 degree? Yes. However, depending on the size of the painting, you may want more than one light on each side. For the size canvas you are talking about I would probably use 2 lights on each side.

    What lights? Doesn't matter much as long as they are not neon types and all the bulbs match in color temp.

    Taking the UV off? 100% yes. A macro lens is for small objects/subjects. You don't need it unless you have very tiny paintings.

    Low ISO? Yes. But you need lights that are powerful enough or a good tripod for longer exposures. One of your problem may be that you are using to large an aperture which means a very shallow DOf. Doubtful but one never knows from you description. Another problem could be a cheap tripod with no remote shutter. If your tripod is not that solid and you are pushing the shutter release button, who knows where your focus is...

    Yes, lots of different possibilities to consider.
  8. Terry1964
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    Terry1964 New Member

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    Thanks cloudwalker. I want to sell prints as close to the original painting as possible. They don't have to be exact but of a quality that people would buy.
    I need the size to be about the same as the art work, I was looking at taking files of the photographed work to a studio for printing. It might be I'm a little too ambitious and what I want to do impossible with the equipment I've got. I'm hoping that isn't the case.
    Anyway I shall carry on trying to get results from the Nikon with some better lighting etc. and see what happens.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  9. Lipoly
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    Lipoly New Member

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    Nice painting:thumbup:
  10. Helen B
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    Helen B New Member

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    The maximum image size produced by the D5000 is 4288 x 2848. Without interpolation this could be printed at 200 ppi (on a Lambda, for example) to 21" x 14". You could try using something like PhotoAcute to combine multiple similar images to raise the pixel dimensions, or you could work out a method of stitching together panels. If you have the time and the inclination to learn this and to learn colour management, I believe that you will get there.

    I do this professionally, and for lighting I either use RRB 'Broads' (they are 'open face' lights with a glass safety screen) or Lowel Tota-Lights - which are similar but more portable (both of these are just fancy, expensive versions of work lights). It's always a good idea to use hot lights (incandescent) rather than fluorescents or similar if colour accuracy is a concern. I don't use, or recommend, a diffuser other than the standard reflector. You want to be in control of the angle between the surface of the artwork and the light source, and hence the camera axis, so the larger the source is the less control you have over reflections.

    The other equipment I have includes polarizing lighting gels for the sources and a polarizing filter for the camera. These help in the control of some specular reflections.

    Testing for lighting evenness and consistent colour temperature used to be carried out with an incident light meter and a colour meter. It can also be done using the white paper test I described above. Make sure that the only lights illuminating the artwork are the intended ones - switch others off.

    You might want to look into some colour profiling software like X-Rite Passport. Ask for more info if you are interested.

    Try using Live View for critical focus.

    Best,
    Helen4,288 x 2,848
  11. Terry1964
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    Terry1964 New Member

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    Thanks :D
  12. Terry1964
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    Terry1964 New Member

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    Hi Helen,
    Thanks for that, I was feeling very despondent before I read your post. you have cheered me:)
    I haven't had chance to fully check the programmes you mention, been out all day, but had a brief look and they seem the sort of thing I'm going to need. I am eager to learn everything I can, esp. colour management. any info you can give me would be great.
    Feeling a lot more positive.

    Cheers,
    Terry

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