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  1. #1

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    Photographing glossy paintings

    I've recently been having a lot of trouble photographing my oil paintings
    because of the reflections of the lights causing glare. I've photographed
    my artwork for many years with no trouble, but those were all works that
    had a flat (matte) surface, and reflections weren't a problem. Oil paintings
    are rather glossy. I could use some advice about cutting out glare.

    I've tried lights at a 45 degree angle to the picture plane, but here's
    the rub.... the surface of a painting isn't completely flat. Even using a
    rather smooth technique, the brushstrokes in an oil painting make for raised
    ridges that catch the light, throwing back thousands of little reflections. By
    the way, I'm using floodlights, not flash.

    I've read on some art sites that you can buy polarizing film to place over
    the lights, and doing that in combination with a polarizer on the lens will
    take care of the problem. Does anyone have any experience with that stuff?
    I'd rather not shell out the $50 for the film and then find out it doesn't work.


    thanks,
    Susan
    Susan Daly Voss
    www.susandalyvoss.com
    photogravure blog ... www.susanvossgravures.blogspot.com

  2. #2
    Craig's Avatar
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    It sounds similar to taking pictures of fish in a tank, and getting reflections off the glass. The 45 degree angle usually does the trick, but the glass is a smooth surface, unlike your paintings.

    I'd try either using a softbox, or taking them outside and photographing them on an overcast day - not always possible I realize. You might be able to improvise a softbox but hanging some very lightweight translucent fabric in front of your lights to diffuse the light?

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Cross polarization is the usual method for surfaces like oil paintings, when placing the lights at a 45-degree angle isn't enough. Of course it will depend somewhat on the painting, since there are surfaces angled in all directions, but if you polarize the lights and use a polarizer on the lens, it should improve things. It helps to do this with two people, so you can look through the viewfinder (or at the groundglass) while someone else adjusts the polarizers on the lights.

    This is the stuff you want--

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...0_Filter_.html
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  4. #4
    msage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SusanV View Post
    I've recently been having a lot of trouble photographing my oil paintings
    because of the reflections of the lights causing glare. I've photographed
    my artwork for many years with no trouble, but those were all works that
    had a flat (matte) surface, and reflections weren't a problem. Oil paintings
    are rather glossy. I could use some advice about cutting out glare.

    I've tried lights at a 45 degree angle to the picture plane, but here's
    the rub.... the surface of a painting isn't completely flat. Even using a
    rather smooth technique, the brushstrokes in an oil painting make for raised
    ridges that catch the light, throwing back thousands of little reflections. By
    the way, I'm using floodlights, not flash.

    I've read on some art sites that you can buy polarizing film to place over
    the lights, and doing that in combination with a polarizer on the lens will
    take care of the problem. Does anyone have any experience with that stuff?
    I'd rather not shell out the $50 for the film and then find out it doesn't work.


    thanks,
    Susan
    Susan
    The best solution is to polarize the lights with the same axis of the filters. Then polarize the lens with the filter axis rotated with the best glare reduction. It is often a dramatic difference.
    Michael

  5. #5
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    I've photographed many oil paintings professionally, often using a polarizer on the camera lens but never on the lights. Double polarization certainly works, it may work too well and kill the detail of the brush strokes completely. I would try with just a camera filter first.

  6. #6

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    The effect is usually known as 'flashback' and as others have said, polarizers on 45 degree copy lighting is the normal route (I've done this for book illustrations). The most important thing is to leave some flashback in, so the brush-stroke structure is revealed, i.e. don't cross the polarizers fully or the picture goes 'dead'.
    Free Photography Information on My Website
    http://www.rogerandfrances.com

  7. #7
    Sparky's Avatar
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    I agree fully with Roger and David. The brushstrokes are there for a reason. It's part of the painting. Unless the artist didn't intend them (in which case - it's probably not a painting worthy of copying..!) - you should show the texture of the brushwork. If you use enough lights, and keep them lower than 45 degrees and keep them as far away from the painting as possible - they should fill in most of the objectionable reflections (i.e. like fill lighting).

    Also note: place your meter (while in incident mode) at the centre and each corner of the painting to verify evenness of lighting. Try to keep it all within 1/4 stop if possible.

  8. #8
    eddym's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    I'd try either using a softbox, or taking them outside and photographing them on an overcast day - not always possible I realize. You might be able to improvise a softbox but hanging some very lightweight translucent fabric in front of your lights to diffuse the light?
    I'd be careful with the softbox. I usually use two 24x36 softboxes for shooting art, but when I'm having problems with reflections, the larger surface area of the softbox just makes the reflections harder to eliminate. In those cases where I need polarization, I switch to round 10-inch reflectors.
    If the art work is large, however, you need to be careful that you are getting even illumination with the smaller light sources.
    Lastly, reducing the angle between the lights and the plane of the art to less than 45 degrees can help eliminate reflections.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  9. #9

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    Susan,

    you should try the following wshich are normally the rules for this.

    1. angle lightsource picture should be exactly 30 degrees.so not camera-picture
    almost flat so

    2 direction of the light source to the picture should be as follows
    left lichtsource is to be directed to the rightsize of the picture
    right source to the left half of the picture.

    now you can do the lightmetering in all the angles of the painting and they should be about the same,too much differenze needs slight adjustments.

    In this case the lightbeams cross eachother before the painting and not on the paiting

    \this should do even without polarizing this has to be tried out

    i do this way even with glassplate in front of paiting

    let us know how this works out for you

    regards

  10. #10
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    The fun really starts whe you have to photograph a large (i.e. measured in yards) oil painting which is in a glazed frame and has just been dragged out a museum store. You obviously have to clean every square inch of the glass (which enables you to see more clearly any dirt INSIDE the glass). As with any glazed picture, the ideal situation is to set up in a darkened room so that no direct light falls on the camera and reflects in the glass, the extra factor which leads to many a merry chuckle (not to mention streams of obscenity) is that even setting lights at 45 degrees may cast a shadow of the edge of frame onto the painting (if the frame is of any appreciable depth). This of course gets worse with the lights at a shallower angle relative to the painting, while a sharper angle produces reflections in the glass. Fine-tuning a set-up of this kind provides hours of innocent amusement!

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