Photographing Oil Paintings

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Rinthe, Mar 31, 2011.

  1. Rinthe

    Rinthe Member

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    I was wondering if it's a good idea to use 2 florescent lights (instead of warm lights) at 45 degrees to light the oil painting? Does the color of the light make a difference besides the white balance?
     
  2. Jostie

    Jostie Member

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    As long as these lamps were the only light source illuminating the painting and you filtered correctly they should be ok. You would need to make sure that you used lamps that have a high CRI (colour rendering index) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index .The more expensive daylight balanced models have high CRI.
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    Fluorescent lamps will work, but they are generally very flat in quality in the fixtures they tend to come in, so you have to make sure that you take steps to counteract this. The flat light is not the best for shooting paintings, as it can fail to show the intricacies of the texture, making the painting seem kind of "blah" and obviously two-dimensional. An oil painting is not only a flat painting; it is a slightly three-dimensional sculpture of sorts. I'd try to make the light from the lamps more directional if you can (but keep the source broad in relation to the subject; moving the light back a ways will make it harsher – which you want – and also will make illumination more even across the surface of the artwork).

    Fluorescent lamps also vary quite a bit in color – not only from design to design, but from tube to tube and instant to instant. Make sure your exposures are long enough to capture at least 1/2 complete cycle of the lamps (though at least one full cycle is best). Fluorescent casts vary in color and intensity throughout each cycle, so exposures that last for at least 1/2 cycle allow these variations to average out to appear as a constant color temperature and light output. At 60 Hz, '125 captures about 1/2 cycle, and '60 captures a full cycle. Anything faster, and you are going to get different colors and brightnesses for each shot. Check out this link for a better explanation: http://johnbdigital.com/lenses/fluorescent/fluorescent_lighting.php.

    A color meter and a compliment of CC filters will help you out, but most people don't have these items; they are expensive, and somewhat esoteric, especially in the digital age.

    And the poster above has an important point. To truly color balance any shot perfectly, there needs to be only one color temperature of light present. For your run-of-the-mill photography, this is not too important. But for copy work, it is very important. Close your blinds/curtains or work in a room without windows, turn off all other lights, and work in an area without colored walls.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2011
  4. Rinthe

    Rinthe Member

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    I got the Ecosmart Compact flourescent lights, 14 watts, 60 watt equivalent at 5000K color temperature from home depot. I'm using two of them for when I paint. <http://www.amazon.com/Ecosmart-Equivilent-Daylight-Compapact-Flourescent/dp/B0042UN1U0>

    Jostie: according to the wiki. Incandescent/Halogen Light Bulb has the highest CRI? I guess my bulbs would fall into Halophosphate Cool White fluorescent which is at 64?

    2F/2F: thanks for the information! Do you suggest me getting some warmer lights then? if so, what are my options? I don't want to spend too much money, but my highest priority is still to get good shots of my paintings.
     
  5. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    It depends on how accurate you want the color (and the relationships between the colors) to be. The print reflects back based on what color light impinges on it. It can't make light, so it can only reflect what's actually there.

    And all discharge lamps, be they fluorescent, LED, HMI, LPS, etc. all have a fairly spiky spectrum, as opposed to sunlight (or even tungsten lights). Fluorescents and LEDs in particular tend to have large green spikes.

    So yes, the "color of the light" does indeed make a difference besides the white balance. The "best" light for color critical applications is north facing sunlight on a cloudless day. Next best thing I've found is a 4700K Solux bulb. The next level down in light quality is a highly corrected (six or seven phosphor) fluorescent designed for photo or color reproduction work -- around 5000-5600K, and a CRI of 93+. If you are worried about getting the individual colors right, and the relationships between the colors right, I wouldn't go any lower than this.
     
  6. Rinthe

    Rinthe Member

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    Bruce Watson: thank you! I was looking at the solux website for bulbs. I wanted to get some Par20 bulbs at 4700K, but it looked like they only have 4700K with the MR16 mount? Which ones do you have?
     
  7. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I find oil and acrylic paintings the most challenging, compared with other artwork, because those with heavy texture often generate specular reflection to excess, often no matter how I position the lights. In theory this can be dealt with by placing polarizers over the lights and "tuning" the reflections with a polarizer on the camera. The problem there, working as a hobbyist/volunteer for my local art club, is the rather high cost of polarizing material -- too much investment for rare occasional use. That said, I use four softboxes with large CFLs at 5500ºK as daylight (though I admit less and less with film) generally by playing with the softbox positioning I'm able to get results suitable for putting on the web, but likely questionable for real reproduction work.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I agree. I used to shoot oil paintings for a local museum with a polarizing set up and some reflections were impossible to remove. Also, it increased the contrast of the shot. I used broad hot lights, two polarizing gels and the lens was polarized also. My film of choice for such work was Kodak EPN.
     
  9. Jostie

    Jostie Member

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    we use 5000k lamps from either GTi or Normlicht which claim a CRI of over 95
     
  10. Rinthe

    Rinthe Member

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  11. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Quite some time ago I was involved in photographing some oil paintings for a collection, about 90 of them.

    We found the best technique was to have the lights at 5º from the painting plane, which appears to be almost parallel but isn’t. By checking with a light meter we positioned the lights so they were exactly equal in output at the dead centre of the paintings.

    Then we moved one light back so that it was 1/10 of a stop weaker at dead centre. This gave a very slight modelling to the 3D of the paintings.

    We weren’t too sure whether the owner would like what we suggested, so a test was duly done and processed (EPN). One quite happy customer, so we went ahead.

    Food for thought.

    One other aspect was that we used a 5x7 camera with a 150 lens and a 4x5 back. When confronted with a wider or taller painting, we converted the back to 5x7, kept the 150 on the front and effectively had a wide angle lens, still with appropriate coverage. This made life extremely easy and aided efficiency enormously.

    Mick.
     
  12. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    That sounds good; the low light angle is what I've inadvertently ended up doing on my last couple of outings. Unfortunately, I sometimes have trouble setting up in a space large enough to allow much adjustment. Each pass I usually find some new useful detail -- a semi-annual learning experience!
     
  13. The Old Pharaoh

    The Old Pharaoh Member

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    Florescent light contains UV, so you should be careful not to expose the painting for a long period to such light otherwise it can harm the painting.
     
  14. SHbaker11

    SHbaker11 Member

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    Thanks for posting this concern. I have also been researching about proper lighting effects. This is a big thing to learn in photography.
     
  15. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    UV and the heat are not welcome. I have 1950s German magazines and they were teaching how to photograph an icona. They were using Linhof and and lights like ARRI Cinema lights . They were all placed at 3 meters and just front. Results were the ugliest reproductions I have ever seen.

    Let me share with you a trade secret , when I want to learn an museum critical information , I contact with them.

    British Museum always responds in few days. Or you can try Louvre Museum. they still sell film reproductions and they know the best.

    I think best technology for reproduction is comes from Italy. They use gigapixel cameras and technology like spectrometer . I had been posted Mona Lisa current and digitally cleaned and yellow green cast removed. They are from Florence and if you search it well , you can reach it.

    http://www.monalisarevealed.com/secrets.html

    This site is interesting.

    What will you do with films ? Above site teaches how to print it with inkjets.

    Umut
     
  16. Caplight

    Caplight Member

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    Florescent light

    Hi,
    To my knowledge and with the use of a descent digital camera ( which can adjust the white balance) the use of florescent light causes not really a problem. Taken that you place the lamps in the right angle ( about 45° ) it should come out pretty descent.
    The trick is to use a software program ( I use capture one ) where you can adjust the white balance with the click of a mouse. I use my camera tethered, so control is complete over the computer. With the use of a grayscale card the colors are corrected easily.
    Although I would recommend the use of flash strobes.
    Hope this helps.
    Kind regards,
    Luc.
     
  17. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Many have given good advice but I did not notice the suggestion of taking some control shots including a color checker card and gray scale in the picture. The color balance and values of the final output could be adjusted to match as closely as possible. If the capture is on film remember that different films have different color characteristics. Information from a museum or a restorer was a good suggestion.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  18. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    For color critical work, I always test film with a Macbeth color checker to see if the batch of film needs correcting. I also include a step wedge and Kodak color chart in every shot. This helps the printer with color separations of the transparency. Again, I preferred Kodak EPN for art documentation. Fuji chrome films are too distorted for art documentation work. I love Fuji film for personal work though. I don't know if a high CRI light will benefit any shot at all. I thought high CRI numbers only benefited viewing for the human eye, not for film. Correct me if I'm wrong. And yes, heat and UV are enemies of art work.