Photographing flat artwork - oils

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by miltk, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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    the images i get from shooting my artwork is not to my liking.

    in order to eliminate glare, over thw years i have used polarizing sheets on the lamps(lowel tota with 300watt ushio halogens) and a circular on my lens. this is the only setup that has worked for eliminating glare on the canvas. which has always been my priority.

    so there's the saturation problems that come with this setup. also, the camera. i have settled on the sony because it has the best color balance for me. i did not like the nikon or canon. in all three cases, each brand has it's own interpretation of color. i can live with that(more or less), but what is very bothersome on all three cameras, less so on the sony, is that because certain colors are emphasized my brush strokes show up unnecessarily harsh.

    this is a problem because my paintings are subtle. the fact that they photograph harsher is a concern. there used to be a studio called jellybean that shot only artwork here in new york. this was pre digital and they used ektachrome 4x5s. i don't know how they set up their shots however. their chromes were impeccable and captured all the subtleties required...they were perfect.

    is there something i could do to emulate this. i don't use adobe, i use corel. i have a friend who has adobe and lightroom(i think that's the program)and if need be i will try his. now in corel(or the old paint shop pro) i can isolate areas,,,but in general the only tools i use are lightness/darkness/contrast/saturation because frankly i get that my images will go through many changes in viewing whether they be by me at my easel, my computer, my gallery's computer, the gallery walls, the clients homes, or the printer. so i try try to keep alterations to a minimum

    in general, therefore, i try to go for broad overall look to the images. i can achieve this to my liking HOWEVER the loss of subtlety due to and over or under emphasis of color is something i cannot overcome.

    any help to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.
    BTW, when i shoot my painting under my studio lights(not the lowel tota setup) they are subtle BUT they have uncontrollable glare, hence the polarizers.


     
  2. jcdeboever

    jcdeboever TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Artwork is best captured using tilts and shifts. Aligning the perspective is problematic using a traditional camera setup. Something that can help you here would be a PC lens. Probably something like a Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AIS lens with a adapter, mounted on a tripod. You could then dial in your white balance, color, exposure, and perspective. You would then shift the lens until your lines and frame are lined up correctly. As far as light is concerned, a day light continuous bulb setup may aid in rendering the color accurately. However, if the canvas is glossy, this may not work well.

    To accurately render the color, you have to dial in the white balance for the light. A gray card would help here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Welcome!

    First; the lighting. Many of us on here have recommended this book: Light Science And Magic | B&H Photo Video
    I would seldom, if ever, use the kind of lighting you are now using, either with or without a polarizer. Since you didn't mention what kind of modifier you are using, I might assume that you have none except for a polarizing film.

    Second; most modern digital cameras will capture the Raw file, which is what you should use to get the colors right. I don't think the brand of camera will matter much. The editing process is something else you will need to learn, and that is where you can tone down the saturation to more accurately represent your colors.

    Third; The choice of lens has more to do with the rendering (on the sensor) of colors than does the sensor. To know which lens to use, you will need to study lens reviews and look at unedited images made with that lens. There are some reviewers who know what they're talking about and some others who apparently don't, so be cautious in learning about lenses.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I also recommend the book 'Light: Science & Magic'. It should help teach you what you need to know in order to light and photograph your art.

    Basically, it will talk about different types of reflection. Direct reflection vs diffuse reflection etc.

    Diffuse reflection is usually preferred because that carries the color info etc. Direct reflection typically shows up as glare/shine etc....so it is usually to be avoided for flat artwork.

    So the typical setup for shooting artwork is one that tries to avoid or minimize direct reflection. Direct reflection is the type of reflection that you'd get with a mirror, angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. So in a nutshell, imagine that your artwork is a mirror, put your eye where the camera is, then put the lights where your eye won't see them in the mirror.....outside the 'family of angles'. This is easier if you shoot from further away and use a longer focal length (and harder with a shorter lens).

    Typically this may mean putting the lights off to the side, and not in front of the work. This can create an artificial brightness gradient because of the inverse square law and how light falls off over distance. For that reason, you would typically use two identical lights and position them so that their fall off cancels out.

    All that being said, the texture of an oil painting might still pick up direct reflections, but if they are small enough, they may be useful in giving the viewer a sense of that texture, rather than ruin the photo...I guess that's up to you.
     
  5. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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    thx all. lot's to digest as you're all throwing some nomenclature i am unaware of ,,,,and equipment too. i'm not saying i have a cost limit, but i will go pretty far to get my images right.

    i just took a shot of a piece without the tota lamps. just the circular polarizer, which is useless for straight ahead shots i guess. the resulting image has a much much improved color accuracy,,,the values are almost dead on,,,and it was shot under the lights i use to paint w/ readjusted WB. a bank of six flourescents with a pretty natural balance and 92 cri index.

    but there's that nasty glare and surface variances...i mean, it's oils so there are brush strokes of high gloss.

    i will go down to b&h. but not every counter person would be able to help me though, right? i have this trepidation that unless a photographer has actual experience shooting oil paintings, he won't really know what i'm dealing with or what i expect from a good shot
     
  6. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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  7. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    There is a mix of the most current edition and past editions as well. I'm not sure how close they all are, but if your budget is strained, get the cheaper one, as most of what you need to learn has not changed for a long time.

    If you are close to B&H, go ahead and drop in, although your hunch is correct; not every counter person will know how to help you, other than to sell you stuff. It might even be a non-photographer.

    Now me, I have photographed objects in which I did not want specular highlights, so I made my own version of a light tent using some white nylon fabric and various bits of hardware and found objects. I placed my lights outside the tent, so as to make a big well-lighted stage.

    Yes, you can use fluorescent lighting, but make sure you use only one type of lighting. Do not mix fluorescent and halogen, and window light, for instance. When you get into your editing software, you want to be able to adjust the white balance one time over the entire frame. By having different lighting hitting the subject from all different angles will be nothing short of a nightmare in trying to get the colors right. In fact, you might never be able to get them right.

    I prefer to use electronic flash for my lighting, as the color is consistent, and easily controlled. Not to mention; I can eliminate the ambient light (room light) as long as my flash will overpower it.

    There are color checker accessories that you can get. What it is, is; a little card with colors on it. You put that card in the first frame and take one shot which you then use as your color guide for the other shots you take.
     
  8. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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  9. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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    wouldn't an electronic flash create a dominant source light that has glare? i guess not, but i do notice an ambiance BATHED in light works pretty well
     
  10. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    See, that's why you need to read the book. You might not have ever seen a light tent, or know anything about it, but that is what is called "diffuse" lighting. The light seems to come from a very large source, and is very evenly distributed over the entire subject. It helps to minimize glare.

    Besides, I use two flashes, one on each side, and looking in the tent, I don't see the lights as a point source, but rather the entire tent is pretty much the same bright white light all over.
     
  11. webestang64

    webestang64 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    One of my jobs here at the lab I work at is coping paintings. I use 2 Lowel "hot lights' 3500k set at a 45 degree angle with polarizers covering the entire light. Using a Canon 5Ds and a flat field 50mm macro lens with a circular polarizer to dial out the reflections, on a copy stand or tripod. I did a lot of testing till I got the perfect settings of saturation, contrast, light balance and exposure to create near perfect captures. I do not shoot in RAW, I shoot large J-Peg cause that is really all you need.
    Still not as good as the 4x5 chromes I used to back in the day but I've had very few artist complain.
     
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  12. miltk

    miltk TPF Noob!

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    that's what i use too. i don't know what you mean by "hot lights", but i use halogens. my setup is exactly like yours, and i have tried to adjust for color/saturation/contrast/lightness in my image editor(which is a basic old paint shop pro) to match what i see in real life. i have a later corel 6 but i don't have adobe.

    no matter how much i try however, i cannot get EXACTLY what i need. the images are a bit punchy, which i can tolerate, but what is starting to distract me is because of the exaggeration of colors my brushwork gets punchy too and they are subtle in real life.

    that is now the problem for me. in other words, i look at an image now and say "ok. colors are pretty close, values are acceptable, overall tone to good,,,BUT my brushwork looks harder than it really is" it's similar to if you look at different prints of the same painting they all look different and the brushwork pops depending on how balanced or how off the colors are....THAT'S my problem.

    seeing as how prints and books' representation of artworks can be off from one version to another, is this an unsolvable issue in the digital age? as i mentioned the best photography of my work was done by jellybean studios long ago. they were set up ONLY to reproduce artwork(they did it for all the big illustrators in the city) and they shot in 4x5 ektachrome.

    do you shoot "colorful" artwork of subtler artwork. like,,,,do you mainly shoot artwork like this https://davidkanigan.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/april-the-seasons-russell-chatham.jpg?w=600&h=600 or this http://www.leslielevy.com/images/orig_art/whook272.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018

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