Making photo copies of paintings

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by AZLF, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. AZLF

    AZLF Member

    Messages:
    359
    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Location:
    Tucson, Az.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My sister has asked me to photograph several of her paintings. All are on canvas. Some are acrylic and some are oil. Several are quite colorful.
    I have a pretty good handle on copy work basics but I'm wondering if there are apug members who have done art copy work and who might have tips for this particular type of copy work . If so I'd love to hear about them.

    TIA
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,032
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As a youngster I made a living doing copies of images for a museum. But I never handled acrylics back then,you really need a polarising set-up unless your particularly lucky with natural light.

    Ian
     
  3. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

    Messages:
    2,229
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I have done a ton of that kind of work but if you have the basics down then there isn't much more to tell. I like to hang the work on a wall in a dark room with the windows covered and no window behind the camera. Then to get the camera close to the right height I take the tripod and camera right up to the painting and set the height so the camera is right in the middle. Hopefully the floor is level and the painting is hanging level then you can just back up to the point that you get the painting in the camera and all you have to worry about is being in the right spot left to right. The light source depends on the texture of the paint. If it is very textured then you are probably better with diffused lights.
     
  4. Dave Pritchard

    Dave Pritchard Member

    Messages:
    266
    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Something obvious, but, match your film color to your light source. I know of one acquaintance who used daylight film in a museum under tungsten light. It was a nightmare to filter to make acceptable prints. He only had the one chance for the shoot, so had to make the best of what he had.
     
  5. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,888
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Good advice... if you set lights up on either side if you use a copystand for instance, you want to be sure the light on the paintings is even. You can take a pencil and hold the tip just over the painting, and make sure the shadow of the pencil that falls on either side is the same... one shouldn't be more faint, for example, than the other.
     
  6. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    To add to dpurdy's good advice: remember that the film plane of your camera must at all times be perfectly parallel to and centered on the plane of the painting. I use a small bubble level on the camera. Use a tripod with a crank center post so that you can adjust it in small increments. A geared head is ideal, but not cheap. You can raise the camera until the bottom of the painting meets the bottom of the viewfinder; then lower it to check the top, to insure that you are centered and have no keystoning. If you do, then you have to move the tripod to one side or the other to center it on the painting.
    I use two matched flash units, roughly at 45 degrees from the plane of the painting (and the camera). But if the painting is very reflective, as are some acrylics, and oils if varnished, then you may need to reduce the angle with the painting. This will bring out textures more, which may or may not be desirable, depending on the art work. If reflections appear, then you will need polarizing filters over the lights and a polarizer over the lens.
    I take incident flash meter readings in the center, then in all four corners. There may be a little variation from the center to the corners, but it should not be too great. If there is any variation from one side to another, then the lights need to be moved to correct it.
    It is not difficult, but it is very tedious. Not really "fun photography."
    As for film, stay away from highly saturated emulsions. Ektachrome EPN was my favorite, now sadly discontinued. In negative film, something like Portra NC is a good choice. If the photo is for reproduction, include a color checker chart next to the art work for later calibration.
     
  7. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,074
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Fuji T64, tungsten lights with softboxes. Polarizer maybe.
     
  8. AZLF

    AZLF Member

    Messages:
    359
    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Location:
    Tucson, Az.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks one and all for the tips. The paintings are being shipped to me this week and I will probably begin to copy them next weekend. I read more than one reference to polarizing my light sources. Is there a gel I can buy for this? I had planned to have a pl filter around for sure but had not heard or read of a method to polarize the lights themselves.
     
  9. erikg

    erikg Member

    Messages:
    1,460
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2003
    Location:
    pawtucket rh
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is what I do for a living, I work for an art museum. I laughed when I read Eddy's remark: "Not really "fun photography."" Well, I guess not, but if you like looking at art it's not too bad. I would recommend looking into cross-polarization. You get polarizing gel in sheets, you can get it mounted in a cardboard frame or unmounted. B&H has it, I'm sure others too. They go in front of each light, taking care that they are all oriented in the same direction. If you are using hot lights take care not to mount the filter too close, they will burn out pretty fast. Place your lights, meter carefully, as per previous suggestions, and then mount a pola filter on your lens and rotate it until you see the specular highlights disappear. You will need a fair amount of light as the filters really knock it down. You will get great color saturation. Most of the artists I work for love the result when their work is shot this way. Best of luck!
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,971
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  11. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,899
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Assuming your copy setup can hold the paintings in a fixed plane easily and reliably, you can substitute a mirror for the painting and fiddle around with the camera position until you see the camera lens centered on the ground glass. That will get your film plane and subject plane about as parallel as possible.

    I second the recommendation for cross-polarized lights for oils and acrylics. My first attempt with that was very successful -- until the gels in front of the lights started to melt. :sad: Sort of argues for working fast! I've lately been using softboxes and daylight color temperature compact fluorescents. That takes care of the heat, but I don't have (and wonder if I can afford) polarizing gels big enough. Most of this sort of work I do is as a volunteer for an art club I belong to -- hard to justify buying hundreds of bucks worth of equipment for non-paying work, especially when I have little other use for it. (Note to self: "Buy lottery tickets ....")

    DaveT
     
  12. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I bought my polarizing gels from Calumet, but I'm sure most major suppliers carry them. For the frames to hold them, I had a frame shop make me a couple of wooden frames, held together with wing nuts. Yes, it is important to mark the top of each frame so that they are both oriented correctly.
     
  13. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

    Messages:
    3,107
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    level the camera on all 3 axis', level the painting on all 3 axis', then measure the distance from the top right corner of the painting to the top right corner of the front standard (assuming you are using LF, 4X5 presumably). measure the distances from each of the corners, and they should be all the same. use a color checker chart (if you have one, but at least a grey card). use a slightly longish lens (say 210-240mm on 4x5), preferably a macro lens, due to the flat field. I've used an APO Rodagon on 4x5 before with EPY 64t 4X5, and it worked out totally fine. I shot a sheet with my 210(non macro), and the Rodagon looked much better IMO, much more accurate!

    Do as all the others have recommended, and use lighting from both sides, and depending on the size, I prefer to use 4 lights minimum (on paintings smaller that 16x20), and at least 6-8 on larger ones. I don't do this for a living by a long shot, but I have some friends who paint regularly, and its a nice way to make some extra cash :smile:.

    Many prefer to use continuous lighting (even the work clamp lights that you can get at Home Depot, and then diffuse them with some gels. I use up to 8 of them, and i point them at the opposite corner of the painting (so the light on the bottom right points at the top left corner of the painting, and the such. All the lights are at the same distance from the painting, and each is measured individually, one at a time.

    Its a meticulous process, and usually not all that "fun", but it can be a rewarding experience to see someone's art entrusted in YOUR hands to reproduce it faithfully. Just put on some good music while you're doing it, and it won't get that boring :smile:.

    If its possible, shoot a polaroid, or better yet, shoot a test sheet, process it(or get it processed), and then examine it for accuracy.

    If no tungsten film is available, then I'd recommend the Fuji Astia, Provia, or preferably, the Kodak E100G, or ektachrome 64(EPR). of course, since these are all daylight balanced films, you will need to compensate accordingly with filtration.

    -dan
     
  14. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,074
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Let me add one other thought: when reproducing some art for a colleague, I included a colour sep chart in the slide. You could incorporate it into the actual frame of your photograph... or you could take it separately, giving it the identical exposure that you give the artwork. Then you have the sep chart to guide any white balance amendments that are needed, if necessary.
     
  15. pgomena

    pgomena Member

    Messages:
    1,382
    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, Or
    Rosco makes polarized gels in sheets and rolls. Sheets are about 20x20" and are not too expensive. Any large professional photo retailer will carry them. Be sure not to get them too close to a hot modeling light or tungsten source, they will melt or burn through.

    Peter Gomena
     
  16. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,899
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format

    Alas, I guess it depends on the definition of too expensive. :sad: A 17 x 20 inch sheet which might work over my softboxes appears to be around $40 -- and I would need two. The 17 inch by ten foot rolls are around $200. My original attempt used smaller gels that were $14 apiece and nearly destroyed on first attempted use even though spaced an inch or two from the glass of a pair of halogen worklights. I'd love to be set up with some pols, but since it affects about five shots of the several thousand I take each year, it's pretty low priority in my retirement budget.

    Some of it depends on use/intent; for low-res display on a website, I can usually fake my way through with the softbox diffusion, attention to light angles and a polarizer on the camera, but I know it doesn't achieve "fine art reproduction" standards.

    Dave ("Cheapo") T
     
  17. archphoto

    archphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,066
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2008
    Location:
    Holland and
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    One thing not mentioned here is that some dye's can have a diferent color on the photo than seen by the eye.
    You can get to a point where you photographed 5 colors perfectly and one is off: don't wory, it can happen and you can't do anything to it.

    That's why the color-chart is so important, just at the edge of your photo, outside the real painting.

    Good shooting !!!!!

    Peter