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Shooting paintings: hints?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by 13Promet, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. 13Promet

    13Promet Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2011
    Hi all guys,

    a friend of mine, who is a semi-serious painter besides being a lawyer, will have an important exhibition in a short time.
    He asked me take the pictures for the printed catalogue.

    Even if it sounds pretty simple to me, I've never done this before and I might not be aware of the tricky issues concerning such kind of photography, if any.

    My plan is to employ the D300s (sorry guys, don't hate me for this :biggrin:), Micro AF-D 60/2.8 and tripod.

    Lighting is not great where the paintings are, but I'm not very worried because:

    - tripod allows long exposures if lighting is too poor
    - possibility to carefully set the white balance
    - pantings are 2D, so lighting angle shouldn't be that important (save extreme cases)

    Am I assuming wrong or missing anything ? :confused: 

    Thank you in advance :thumbup:
  2. tomrock

    tomrock Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 21, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN
    Google photographing paintings and you'll find all kinds of info.
  3. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 All-Pro

    Lighting is the biggest thing. Other than that, use a tripod, make sure that you're shooting straight on (which means that a D300 with 60mm may be too long), fill the frame, and use a deep depth of field (f/8-f/11 or so with the D300, so that you ensure everything is in focus, and that is also the optimal aperture for optical performance on our Nikon DX cameras).
    Matt Greer Photography: How to Photograph Artwork

    Do you shoot in RAW? I'd recommend it, if you have the software to handle it. If not, then shooting in JPEG should be fine, but go buy yourself a gray card, and set a custom white balance. If you shoot RAW, just take a photo of the gray card as your first photo, and you will have a white balance reading that you can use the dropper to set, and then batch apply that Curves/WB setting for the whole batch of photos. Reshoot the gray card every few shots, as using strobes or changing environmental conditions can change the white balance. That link above described everything as well as I could hope to, so read up, and good luck!
    • Like Like x 1
  4. 13Promet

    13Promet Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2011
    I'll be shooting in RAW+JPEG mode, white balancing by white/gray card and taking pics of it for raw PP.
    If Jpeg guesses the colours right, great, otherwise I'll use the raw files.

    Thanks a lot, shnitz, great advices! :2thumbs:
  5. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    Er, it's not that easy. Lighting angle is important. Light quality is important. It probably makes more sense to shoot the works in a different location if the gallery light itself is uneven or not diffuse enough.

    Getting exactly even with the painting is critical. Avoiding bad angles and the subsequent distortions is not so easy without a tilt/shift lens. Take lots of time and check everything.

    EDIT: Oh sorry, missed a response while writing.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. FastCorner

    FastCorner Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2011
    I would think the lighting angle would be tremendously influential in conveying the texture of the paint. White balance and color reproduction is probably an issue as well, so I'd think you'd want a color chart for calibration purposes.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. nsd20463

    nsd20463 Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 30, 2011
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Like others said: get the colors right by setting the white balance from a gray card, AND have the gray card in every shot (crop it out later), so you can fix the RAW image if you need to.

    Also I was taught to do some more things:
    1) use a polarized filter to cut down on glare
    2) use only one kind of light (many artist studios have a combination of skylight, windows, and tungsten (or worse, florescent) lighting, or at least make it overpowering enough that the other's don't matter.
    3) watch out for vignetting / use a small enough aperture that it doesn't show

    And on m4/3, use the manual focus zoom aide to get it just right.

    As far as getting the painting straight on, as long as it is in within the depth of field you can straighten it later on a computer. You'll also find yourself fixing the barrel distortion of the lens (unless using a m4/3 native lens and the camera corrects it just right)
    • Like Like x 1
  8. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    I have found the use of high-CRI ambient LED lighting to be acceptable. I prefer color temperatures between 3500K to 5000K for general object photography; gravitating towards the lower end of this range for more depth for paintings in oil and towards the upper end for watercolor and tempera for more vibrancy.

    For me, I have not found shooting straight at artwork to be particularly advantagous; particularly for works in oil where a higher-level surface texture (vice watercolor) can be achieved and the requisite shadows from shooting at various angles of incidence (AOI) can bring about another layer of character in the captured photo image.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    Also, paintings are not flat, they are only "mostly flat". Bringing out the brush-strokes helps add life and dimensionality. In my limited experience the way to do this is to shoot head-on (to prevent distortions) but to light from a consistent angle, say 45 degrees.

    I disagree with those who suggest leaving correction of parallax errors etc. until the computer. It's never so easy as it looks! Consistency is then very difficult to achieve.

    Another aspect I don't think anyone has mentioned is your colour workflow once on the computer. It is easy to get shifts when converting from RGB to CMYK or between different colour models, depending on how and when you make these changes.

    (I am currently creating a website for a painter so these things are on my mind.)
    • Like Like x 1
  10. peterpix

    peterpix Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 8, 2010
    So. Maine
    Peter Randal
    My studio partner shoots lots of paintings and he uses strobes with polarizers on the lens and the the lights. Lights are placed at a 45 degree angle to the painting.
    An alternative to indoor lights is shoot outdoors in open shade or overcast day All the previous comments about using gray or color chart , correcting for parallel lines, shooting in raw, tripod, stopping down, etc are needed indoors and out.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 All-Pro

    I don't think that anyone here advocates ignoring parallex while shooting. The only posts I see about angles seem to me to be with regards to the angle of the lighting. It's been pretty univerally stated that the camera should be perfectly set up perpendicular and straight out from the subject.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. 13Promet

    13Promet Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2011
    Thank you very much guys, a lot of very useful advices! :2thumbs:
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