Pictures of Art
A friend wants me to photograph her 6x6ft painting. Can anyone point me to a good website that discusses how to best do this? Or offer suggestions on what I might need and how to light the thing, etc?
I'm assuming the painting is an artistic piece, so try to capture the mood it presents. But ask her what she wants to do with the photos first.
Originally Posted by jvarsoke
If it's in a studio with large windows, use natural light during the day.
If there's not enough light in the room, set up artificial lights, have a camera on a tripod, and shoot.
You can use strobe, but it's probably harder for you to explain to her what kind of photos you will be getting with it.
Good Morning, Jvarsoke,
There are a lot of unknowns here. Color? B & W? End result--transparency, print? End result--how large? Physical limitations at the site: Is there room for lights (with a 6-foot square original, you'll need LOTS of space at both sides, and maybe above and below, to get even lighting. Is there enough electrical capacity to power the several floodlights you'd need? Do you have a studio flash with enough heads to light the subject evenly? The largest originals I have copied were old high school class photos (B & W) which were three and a half to four feet wide. I managed with four 500 watt floods and did the work in an empty classroom which had a nine- or ten-foot ceiling. I probably could have done something 6 x 6 feet with the same set-up, but more than four lights would then have been preferable.
For a camera, I'd certainly be thinking 4 x 5, at least, although 2 1/4 square might be OK if you don't need large prints. Careful camera placement so that everything is square and plumb in relation to the painting will be necessary also.
And if color you will need to balance color temp of film to light source.
Simplest lighting is to have you're source at 45 degrees on each side of the subject, camera @ 90.
Hot lights are probably easier to see reflections with rather than flash.
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The specs from my friend aren't that specific. She was given a painting (oil) from another friend. The artist would like to have a photo of it for her portfolio or something. I'm assuming slide film here. But this is just a guess.
I don't have much in the way of equipment, and I don't do this normally. I'm not even sure what kind of quality is expected. But I'd like to do this on the cheap. But don't know if it's possible to stand a few 80watt bulbs up to make the exposure from a 35mm or not.
This is not a paid gig, I'd just like to make something reasonable.
I have photographed paintings this size using 4 photo-flood blue bulbs (150w) in clamp-on reflectors. 6 lights would give better coverage tho. With these day-light balanced bulbs I usually use 100 speed film - most people ask for 35mm slide film for their portfolios, but if prints are required go with MF equipment if you can.
A couple of light stands would be very helpful, along with a tripod and cable-relaese.
Set the lights at 45 degree angles with two lights on each side, one high and one low on the stand. You want to try and wash the painting with light. Use an incident meter to check the light readings at the center and all four corners and adjust the lights accordingly. Take your time and don't rush.
Studio strobes or mono-lights give you great color, but reflections are harder to predict. I still have to experiment a little to hone in on the use of strobes.
I photographed my own sculpture and paintings in the past and have provided this service to area artists - paid for my darkroom and much of my camera equipment this way.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
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I do this frequently for artists and magazine covers. The ideal way to shoot art is to light it with two matched strobes at 45 degrees from the camera lens axis. This angle may need to be adjusted slightly to cancel out reflections from the art if is is shiny, like acrylics or oils, especially if they have been varnished. If the reflections persist, then use polarizing screens over the lights and a polarizing filter over the lens.
Originally Posted by jvarsoke
All the above is for general information; if you don't have the equipment to do it that way, then find a shady area, preferably outdoors, where the painting will be illuminated evenly by north light. Meter with an incident meter; check the reading at center of the painting and all 4 corners to insure that the light is even. Devise a way to hang the painting vertically, and use a level to insure that it is exactly vertical. Mount the camera on a tripod and level the camera. Do not tilt the camera to get the painting in the viewfinder; raise and lower it with the tripod post or legs, but keep it perfectly level. Center the lens axis on the center of the painting. This is to avoid keystoning. The film plane and the painting should be parallel. Fixed focal length lenses are better, to avoid any barrel or pincushion distortion. It is tedious work.
Naturally, the larger format the camera, the better. I use 4x5 for transparencies for reproduction. If she wants slides, then obviously shoot 35mm. If she wants prints for a portfolio, then 35mm or medium format should be fine; but larger is always better.
If the final product will be a print, then a negative film without enhanced saturation or contrast would be best. I like Portra NC. If she wants slides, then again, you want to avoid high saturation/contrast films. The best I have found is Kodak EPN; it is designed specifically for applications that require accurate color balance, such as for art works.
Ideally, you should check your lighting with a color meter and filter to match the film color balance. In practice, my studio flashes usually give me accurate color. With available light, watch out for colored reflective areas that might tint the light on the painting. I bracket transparency film one stop either way, in half stop increments, making five exposures.
Hope this helps,
Wow, Eddy. Thanks for that definitive guide.