Photographing very large flat artwork with flash or strobes?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by danonthehill, Feb 12, 2010.

  1. danonthehill

    danonthehill TPF Noob!

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    I am an artist (painter). I want to photograph my paintings, which are usually very large from 6x8 to 14x8 feet. In the past I have used 2 800w red head lights set up at 45 degree angles to limit any reflections on the surface, with fairly poor results due to the uneven lighting. I have seen other people get good results using bounce flash. I have just bought a Canon 5d which I plan to use with my Contax Zeiss 50mm and 28mm and think it will be possible to get good results with these. I have some experience with photography, I have shot large format etc, however I have no experience of using flash. What is the best way to get an even light when photographing large flat art work like this. I really don't have much cash left so should I get a speedlight or a couple of cheap strobe lights? Would I need umberellas with strobes, how powerful would the speedlight need to be, could I get away with 430ex and what angle should I bounce it to limit reflections? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I was going to say have the flashes at 45 degrees ... one on either side ... shoot through a large white cloth hanging in front of flash; diffused light.

    Though I could be wrong ... I've never shot any of my large canvas paints before.
     
  3. matfoster

    matfoster TPF Noob!

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    hello Dan. i am a artist also. i'm curious - your idea of using flash over daylight? is it due to the size of your pictures and/or limitations of natural light in a studio (?) ..could daylight simulation bulbs be another option?
     
  4. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    Two lights at roughly 45 degree angles from the art's surface (flatter if using a wider lens) and at least 3 times as far away from the center of the artwork as the diagonal measure of the piece. Its possible that using pairs of lights, two on each side spread apart parallel to the near side of the piece, will help. If the lighting is uneven then the lights are too close, period.
     
  5. danonthehill

    danonthehill TPF Noob!

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    Thanks. The difficulty is also one of space it is difficult to have the lights at 45 degrees at the correct distance because of the limitations of the studio and size of the paintings. It looks like you are suggesting using a constant light source in the same method I have used previously, but because of the space the results have been poor, on the other hand I have had professional shots done in the same studio and the photographer was using a single bounce strobe off the ceiling. Natural light can also not be depended upon in this studio. I was wondering how powerful a strobe I would need, would 2 be better and at what angle I should bounce.
     
  6. epatsellis

    epatsellis TPF Noob!

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    Dan,
    what specifically are you trying to accomplish? photographing for documentation or portfolio purposes or reproduction? The requirements for the first are far less stringent than the latter.
     
  7. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    I don't know if this is feasible in your situation, but if you could get them outside or into a room that is very well-lit by sunlight (indirect), you can do this without any additional lights. I did this when I went through my parents' house to document all the artwork for both insurance and inheritance purposes - many of the paintings being over 10 ft (3 m) on each side - and most turned out very well without additional light because they have huge windows. Exceptions were where the paintings were glass-covered. An example is below of an Orlando, 10' tall by 12' wide, stretched canvas in no frame (some silver paint, which is why the overall photo is dark, so that the silver comes out).

    [​IMG]
     
  8. danonthehill

    danonthehill TPF Noob!

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    Thanks. The images have to be suitable for reproduction in magazines etc. so have to be perfect.
     
  9. epatsellis

    epatsellis TPF Noob!

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    In that case, you'd be far better to have the work done, depending on where you are, there should be somebody nearby who specializes in art repro work. Art repro is one of the most demanding aspects of photography, a good corollary would be just getting your driver's license and jumping into a Formula One racecar, after all, it's just a car, right?

    There's 3 things working against you doing it yourself:
    Lack of knowledge with regard to lighting principles
    A non color-calibrated workflow
    Inexperience with art repro requirements.

    While you can learn certainly learn, by time you do you could pay to have it done. Ideally, somebody with a Betterlight scanback and experience with repro work. While some may scoff, sometimes there's no subsitute for lotsa pixels and the skill in lighting to accurately portray your work.
     
  10. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    +1

    You should hire someone. This isn't a DIY project. Just as much time you put into your paintings other people put into photography to get professional results. This type of work leaves no room for mistakes.
     
  11. Shane Anderson

    Shane Anderson TPF Noob!

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    My wife is an artist and I am pondering the same question as the OP. The only difference in my case is that the main reason for capturing the artwork images is for archival and portfolio records, not for reproduction.

    Our condo (where my wife works from) is relatively poorly lit. I have a D5000 and I'm looking for suggestions on how to improve lighting for taking photographs.
     
  12. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Standard approach is camera on a copy stand with two long fluorescent lights (diffuse, daylight colour temp.) on extendable "arms" at a 45 degree angle.

    skieur
     

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