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  1. #1
    picturetaker's Avatar
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    Photographing Art

    I need to photograph and mount artwork for my daughter's art portfolio. This will also include original photographs.

    I don't know how to photograph the actual artwork to avoid glare - either natural light or from flash. We will have the photos professionally printed but then we need to mount them so that there is no glare as well.

    Any suggestions or links would be greatly appreciated.
    Larry
    Bessa L, Electro 35 GSN, Elan 7NE, Olympus XA and XA2, Digital Rebel XT

  2. #2
    DWThomas's Avatar
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    I find the best results working indoors with two halogen lights, one off to each side -- roughly 45º off the camera-to-artwork line. Unless you create an actual copy stand rig, it can take some time to get the film plane parallel to the painting, look carefully for keystoning of any rectangular borders/frames/whatever. I've not tried it recently, but just the right daylight conditions could probably work OK too. Most of my recent efforts have been photographing art show winners that are already framed; that inflicts additional challenges. Bracketing exposures is highly recommended.

    With the lights, I find oil or acrylic paintings with lots of texture can be more difficult than shooting typical watercolors through glass. No matter where I put lights, there's always some little pinpoint reflections. Sometimes a polarizer helps. I lately have been using umbrella diffusers on the lights, but I suspect some massive softbox rig might be better. (I'm not likely to find out, as for what little use I have for such a rig, it would be too expensive to find out.) Flash is least likely to be successful unless you have a full studio rig.

    My most recent work of this sort has been using the -- uh -- alternate technology which offers instant feedback and was for web use anyway. But that said, using the halogen lights (these are worklights from Home Depot -- I'm cheap!) I believe I got better color with Tungsten Ektachrome than the bit box.

    Prints on matte paper will probably take care of glare for viewing.

    I recently used some sheets of double-sided adhesive material to mount photos on matte board which seemed to work pretty well and only needs a bit of patience and a brayer-type of roller, as opposed to a fancy dry mount press. I've no idea what the long term performance will be with this material, having only used it a few weeks ago. There are some varieties claimed to be archival.

    I'm sure there are some pros on these forums who can offer more comprehensive and reliable advice.

    DaveT
    Last edited by DWThomas; 12-03-2006 at 11:04 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: (poor spelling!)

  3. #3
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    A copy stand would be the best answer, with a light either side at 45°. If you do not have this, pinning the artwork to the wall in a place where there is even diffuse daylight should be fine (although it will take some care to get the artwork square on to the camera). Glare should not be a problem unless the surface of the artwork is unusually reflective, if so, you will need a polarizer filter. Provided that the artwork is not reflective, you could use on-camera flash, but any reflective points, even if very small, will give you hot spots.

    As regards printing and mounting, glossy paper is designed to reflect strongly within a narrow angle - outside this angle, it does not reflect, thus giving a greater brightness range. Matt papers are intended for display prints under difficult conditions with light coming from numerous angles. Similarly, frames with non-reflective glass can be used under conditions of this kind - the glass is not quite as clear as plain glass, but it kills reflections.

    Hope this helps - please post again with any further queries.

    Regards,

    David

  4. #4
    Tony Egan's Avatar
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    Larry - some good suggestions above. I have done three jobs like this recently. One rephotographing a B&W portfolio for the web, an artist's portfolio (mainly watercolours) and a large scale artwork.

    As Dave says digital is great for this kind of work. Instant feedback and I recommend taking a few shots, downloading and reviewing on a decent monitor and going back again to re-do it. I shot the entire art portfolio twice because of small issues I could not fully see even after looking at the camera back. Fine colour balancing with a good digital is helpful also. Avoid mixed lighting sources. Even some stray sunlight from a far off window can upset colour balance and create faint shadows. Also use a bracketing routine. Use a polariser as mentioned above also. Use some large white reflectors on each side of the copy stand to ensure even lighting and bounce light into the corners. I used some heavy steel rulers at the edges to keep work as flat as possible on the base of the copy stand.

    Lesson learned for me was I did not always get it right first time so need to persevere or spend hours in photoshop trying to patch it up!!
    Last edited by Tony Egan; 12-04-2006 at 06:50 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5
    eddym's Avatar
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    In addition to the excellent advice from the previous posters, I would only like to make a couple of comments. I do a good bit of this work, though less than I used to, since many of my artist clients now have you-know-what cameras.
    I use two matched studio flashes with either a softbox on each, or large round reflectors. I measure carefully to set them at the same height as the center of the painting. An angle of about 45 degrees is good, but depends on the reflectivity of the art work. A more shallow angle from the plane of the art will increase the texture, showing the brushstrokes, while reducing reflections. A greater angle (lights nearer the camera axis) will reduce texture, and may increase reflection.
    Acrylics and varnished oils will be more likely to have reflections. Watercolors are not usually a problem unless they are framed behind glass. In the case of highly reflective surfaces, the best solution is to put polarizing screens over the lights, both oriented in the same direction, and then a polarizing filter over the lens, turned so that the polarizing is at right angles to that of the screens. You can clearly see the effect through the lens.
    I use an incident flash meter to determine exposure, and meter the center and all four corners of the art work to be sure the illumination is even. Don't forget to allow for the filter factor of the pola filter, if you use one.
    I use a tripod with a pan head (a ball head will drive you insane) and geared post. Be sure that the camera is directly in front of the center of the art work. Level the camera with a pocket level, then raise or lower the post until it is centered on the painting.
    If shooting 35mm, hang the painting horizontal, regardless of its normal orientation. You do not want to have to turn your camera horizontal; it's harder to level.
    The best film I have found for art is Ektachrome EPN 100. It is neutral balanced, with no "enhanced" saturation of color or contrast, and is designed for reproduction of accurate colors, such as for copying artwork. In 35mm, I usually bracket one stop each way in half stop increments. With 4x5, I bracket a half stop over- and about 2/3 stop under-exposed.
    I rarely shoot art with negative film, as the printing process adds another variable to the problem of matching the colors of the original. And the lab never has the original to use for reference.
    Hope this helps.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  6. #6
    Whiteymorange's Avatar
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    The best film I have found for art is Ektachrome EPN 100. It is neutral balanced, with no "enhanced" saturation of color or contrast, and is designed for reproduction of accurate colors, such as for copying artwork.
    Difference of opinion here... Ektachrome 160T is designed for photographing artwork. When used with 3200K lamps and no other ambient light, the color rendition is dead on. I use a copy stand for most small work and shoot in a darkened room with only the photoflood lamps - 45 degree angle or close. I do 4 or 5 portfolios a year for college admissions and have never had a problem. With large work. I put the painting or drawing on a wall and place the camera and tripod about 8 feet away - one photofloods on each side and an additional one next to the camera. Use a grey card for metering and hold the card perpendicular to the work when setting up to eyeball the strength of the shadow on each side in order to be sure that you have lit the entire piece evenly. Even but low is better than hot spots on the painting.

    All this is intuitive once you get it going. The first roll will tell. A hint: if there are extra portfolios to be sent, shoot a LOT of film - it's cheaper in the long run. Duping slides is expensive.

  7. #7
    picturetaker's Avatar
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    Whew - great info. I did not think it could be so complicated or tricky. But really, it all makes sense now that I read it. Many thanks. Now to work....
    Larry
    Bessa L, Electro 35 GSN, Elan 7NE, Olympus XA and XA2, Digital Rebel XT

  8. #8
    Curt's Avatar
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    Two floods like Smith Victor at 45 degrees on each side check with pencil for even distribution. Use a meter to check the light across the face of the art work and watch the level of illumination when using color. Shift can be a problem. No other lights on and no fl lighting as the whole thing will turn green. Or on the perfectly overcast day set up the art on an easel outside and use a color temp meter to balance the light and enjoy the even natural light provided without lightstands and power.

  9. #9
    eddym's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whiteymorange View Post
    Difference of opinion here... Ektachrome 160T is designed for photographing artwork.
    No difference of opinion; difference of color balance. EPN is balanced for flash, which I use. For tungsten lighting, your film is best.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  10. #10
    DWThomas's Avatar
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    I just shot one of our art show award winners with Fujichrome RTP-II which is a transparency film. It's supposed to be fine grain and have accurate color in tungsten light. I haven't finished the roll yet, as soon as I get some pottery pieces back, I'll shoot the rest on them and we'll see what happens.

    Setting up the SQ-A at the gallery was at least good for impressing bystanders.

    DaveT

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