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Photographing a statue - some advice

 
 
David Hare-Scott
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      03-31-2013
I have a number of wooden statues that I would like to photograph but I am
having trouble with the lighting. The statues are hand carved hardwood that
has an oil-lacquer finish. They are old and have been handled a lot, the
surface is quite shiny.

I started with one which is a head-shoulders bust of a man about 30cm high.
I placed it on a table near a bright window but not in the sun. The glare
off each curve as the angle reflected the light was overpowering and
distracting. I experimented hanging a white sheet over the window, moving
to an area that is illuminated by three windows, added artificial lights at
various angles, tried the on-camera flash (I don't have off camera flash at
this time) in various combinations. Adding extra light sources did not even
out the glare but just produced more bits each with their own glare. I
didn't end up with a very satisfactory result. Probably the best was with
the sheet, the extra lamps and the flash together all at different angles
but it wasn't what I want.

How can I light this in a way that reveals the detail of the intricate
carving, the deep, almost glowing, patina of the wood and the general form
and proportions of the bust without all this glare off the shiny smooth
curves (nose, shoulder, cheek etc)? I wouldn't mind if there were some
highlights but too much detracts.

David


 
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Robert Coe
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      03-31-2013
On Sun, 31 Mar 2013 06:36:47 -0500, Neil Ellwood
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
: On Sun, 31 Mar 2013 11:14:15 +1100, David Hare-Scott wrote:
:
: > I have a number of wooden statues that I would like to photograph but I
: > am having trouble with the lighting. The statues are hand carved
: > hardwood that has an oil-lacquer finish. They are old and have been
: > handled a lot, the surface is quite shiny.
: >
: > I started with one which is a head-shoulders bust of a man about 30cm
: > high. I placed it on a table near a bright window but not in the sun.
: > The glare off each curve as the angle reflected the light was
: > overpowering and distracting. I experimented hanging a white sheet over
: > the window, moving to an area that is illuminated by three windows,
: > added artificial lights at various angles, tried the on-camera flash (I
: > don't have off camera flash at this time) in various combinations.
: > Adding extra light sources did not even out the glare but just produced
: > more bits each with their own glare. I didn't end up with a very
: > satisfactory result. Probably the best was with the sheet, the extra
: > lamps and the flash together all at different angles but it wasn't what
: > I want.
: >
: > How can I light this in a way that reveals the detail of the intricate
: > carving, the deep, almost glowing, patina of the wood and the general
: > form and proportions of the bust without all this glare off the shiny
: > smooth curves (nose, shoulder, cheek etc)? I wouldn't mind if there
: > were some highlights but too much detracts.
: >
: > David
:
: Have you tried a light tent?
:
: Make or acquire a frame to go over the statue with a fair bit of
: clearance, drape a thin white linen or cotton sheet over the frame leaving
: the front clear. place one or more lights to illuminate the sheet with the
: statue placed inside. Put the camera on the tripod with remote fitted and
: look through viewfinder and adjust everything to your own satisfaction,
: allow all vibrations to settle and then take picture.

This is a time when "live view" (composing the picture using the LCD screen on
the back) will serve you well. You need good perspective control (for reasons
that have been discussed at length in a recent thread), and live view can make
that easier to achieve, especially with tripod shots. Most of the better
DSLRs, and virtually all P%Ses, have this capability.

Or if you want to go whole hog, and your camera supports it, connect the
camera to a laptop PC, and use the latter to help you compose the picture.

Bob
 
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Kevin McMurtrie
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      03-31-2013
In article <kj7v4v$j2f$(E-Mail Removed)>,
"David Hare-Scott" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> I have a number of wooden statues that I would like to photograph but I am
> having trouble with the lighting. The statues are hand carved hardwood that
> has an oil-lacquer finish. They are old and have been handled a lot, the
> surface is quite shiny.
>
> I started with one which is a head-shoulders bust of a man about 30cm high.
> I placed it on a table near a bright window but not in the sun. The glare
> off each curve as the angle reflected the light was overpowering and
> distracting. I experimented hanging a white sheet over the window, moving
> to an area that is illuminated by three windows, added artificial lights at
> various angles, tried the on-camera flash (I don't have off camera flash at
> this time) in various combinations. Adding extra light sources did not even
> out the glare but just produced more bits each with their own glare. I
> didn't end up with a very satisfactory result. Probably the best was with
> the sheet, the extra lamps and the flash together all at different angles
> but it wasn't what I want.
>
> How can I light this in a way that reveals the detail of the intricate
> carving, the deep, almost glowing, patina of the wood and the general form
> and proportions of the bust without all this glare off the shiny smooth
> curves (nose, shoulder, cheek etc)? I wouldn't mind if there were some
> highlights but too much detracts.
>
> David


A polarizer seems like the obvious first solution. It will eliminate
the colorless surface reflections that are hurting your photos. The
trick here is that it's only going to work for one angle of curvature at
a time. Avoid cheaper ones that look smokey when held in sunlight.

Illuminating a large reflector or white sheet will soften the light.

If buying equipment is not an option, try taking many pictures while
moving the lights you have but keeping the camera and statues perfectly
still (use a remote control so the camera isn't bumped). You can then
create a composite from the photos. I've had this work for items behind
glass panels but I've never tried it for a complex object.
--
I will not see posts from Google because I must filter them as spam
 
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Peabody
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      04-01-2013
David Hare-Scott says...

> How can I light this in a way that reveals the detail of
> the intricate carving, the deep, almost glowing, patina
> of the wood and the general form and proportions of the
> bust without all this glare off the shiny smooth curves
> (nose, shoulder, cheek etc)? I wouldn't mind if there
> were some highlights but too much detracts.


I'll make the same suggestion I made in the other thread.
Photograph the item outside on an overcast day, with no
additional lighting, and see if that solves the reflections
problem. You end up with even light coming from pretty much
all directions.

Then if that works, you'll need to work on a backdrop of
some kind - maybe just black cloth.

 
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Robert Coe
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      04-06-2013
On Mon, 01 Apr 2013 14:24:32 -0500, Peabody <(E-Mail Removed)>
wrote:
: David Hare-Scott says...
:
: > How can I light this in a way that reveals the detail of
: > the intricate carving, the deep, almost glowing, patina
: > of the wood and the general form and proportions of the
: > bust without all this glare off the shiny smooth curves
: > (nose, shoulder, cheek etc)? I wouldn't mind if there
: > were some highlights but too much detracts.
:
: I'll make the same suggestion I made in the other thread.
: Photograph the item outside on an overcast day, with no
: additional lighting, and see if that solves the reflections
: problem. You end up with even light coming from pretty much
: all directions.

Interesting idea. Overcast days are an underappreciated opportunity. I've used
them many times to good effect.

: Then if that works, you'll need to work on a backdrop of
: some kind - maybe just black cloth.

Or set it up in front of a densely wooded area and throw the background out of
focus. That can work even better than a black cloth, since you don't have to
worry about wrinkles, shiny spots, etc.

Bob
 
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