Capturing images of paintings

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Anthony S, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Anthony S

    Anthony S Guest

    Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.

    Anthony
    Anthony S, Feb 6, 2006
    #1
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  2. Anthony S

    Sheldon Guest

    "Anthony S" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    > Anthony


    It's much easier to shoot them hanging. Your problem will be getting the
    lighting just right, and making sure whatever lighting you use won't damage
    the paintings (don't want really hot lights). I would try and light them
    from two sides at 45 degree angles, and make sure you have the white balance
    just right or you'll have to tweak them with software. If any of them are
    under glass, or reflect a lot of light, a polarizer might help. Obviously,
    a tripod and anythng to cut down on camera shake is a plus.

    If possible, bring a notebook computer so you can blowup your images and
    really get a good look at them when you start. You don't want to make the
    same mistake 60 times when you can catch it on the first image. And, since
    you don't have to pay for film or processing, you can afford to do a lot of
    bracketing to make sure things are right.

    I "think" this is a good start. It will be interesting to see what others
    have to say.
    >
    Sheldon, Feb 6, 2006
    #2
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  3. Anthony S

    G- Blank Guest

    In article <>,
    "Anthony S" <> wrote:

    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    > Anthony


    Hey -The title should have been clueless amateur seeks advice on how to
    do a professionals job :^) You could always tell the cheapskate who is
    hiring you to find someone that knows how!

    A lot of it depends on how big these paintings are. I have a copy stand
    which I can shoot flat art up to 16x20- it has positionable arms with
    lamps on them to decrease glare by moving the lamps . Advice on
    equipment depends on the requirements : a DSlr should be fine for small
    repro's up to say 8x10 for prints.

    Labs use scanning backs in the range of 30-60 megapixels for high end
    work where large prints or 4 color repro work is being done, they use
    carbon arc lamps to illuminate both sides. You can use two flash guns
    on stands and umbrellas for really big pieces hung on a wall. If this is
    really low end (like web stuff) you could shoot them outdoors against a
    wall on a cloudy day-cropping out background junk- yes you could use a
    ladder or a roof top- or stand on your assistants back ;)

    I would also consider the use of a color bar as well as an on Camera
    POL.

    --
    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
    to the American public."--Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918

    greg_____photo(dot)com
    G- Blank, Feb 6, 2006
    #3
  4. Anthony S

    irwell Guest

    On 6 Feb 2006 14:08:35 -0800, "Anthony S" <>
    wrote:

    >Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    >Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    >it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    >tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    >Anthony


    Use a tripod, and the telephoto lens from about twenty
    feet away, if possible. A frontal view is better.
    irwell, Feb 6, 2006
    #4
  5. Anthony S

    Battleax Guest

    "G- Blank" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > In article <>,
    > "Anthony S" <> wrote:
    >
    >> Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    >> Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    >> it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    >> tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >>
    >> Anthony

    >
    > Hey -The title should have been clueless amateur seeks advice on how to
    > do a professionals job :^) You could always tell the cheapskate who is
    > hiring you to find someone that knows how!
    >

    snip

    The problem with using a professional is that sometimes you get a total
    asshole.
    Know what I mean?
    Battleax, Feb 6, 2006
    #5
  6. Anthony S

    Guest

    Anthony S wrote:
    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.


    Unless they are very small, you'll have difficulty centering the
    camera over them when shooting down. Shooting straight on
    is much better. Use a tripod. Distortion is distracting; a moderate
    focal length lens is probably best, a wide angle zoom is almost
    certainly bad. Try to find some kind of neutral backdrop to
    eliminate background detail. You must must must not use
    on camera flash or direct lighting as the surface is generally
    reflective, even if there's no glass. Diffuse natural lighting or
    lights at a 45 degree angle are preferred. Pay attention to your
    white balance, especially if you're using incandescent lights.
    Some of these things, like adjusting your lighting, are easier to
    deal with with the immediate feedback of digital than they were
    with film.

    I understand the other comment about amateurs doing a professional's
    job, but the reality is that the average painter, unless they have
    professional representation or their day job makes real money,
    would have difficulty spending what a professional would likely
    charge for the job.
    , Feb 7, 2006
    #6
  7. Anthony S

    Guest

    I wrote:

    > I understand the other comment about amateurs doing a professional's
    > job, but the reality is that the average painter, unless they have
    > professional representation or their day job makes real money,
    > would have difficulty spending what a professional would likely
    > charge for the job.


    BTW, my experience with this is shooting slides for review/portfolio
    and I sort of assumed that was what the OP wanted. If you're shooting
    for serious reproduction, I think you gotta pay for good professional
    work.
    , Feb 7, 2006
    #7
  8. Anthony S

    G- Blank Guest

    In article <>,
    "Battleax" <> wrote:


    >
    > The problem with using a professional is that sometimes you get a total
    > asshole.
    > Know what I mean?


    Not a clue,---- I am sure your an expert-though.

    & There are always those a-holes that can't take a joke
    and forget that the question was answered.


    --
    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
    to the American public."--Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918

    greg_____photo(dot)com
    G- Blank, Feb 7, 2006
    #8
  9. Anthony S

    G- Blank Guest

    In article <>,
    wrote:
    >
    > I understand the other comment about amateurs doing a professional's
    > job, but the reality is that the average painter, unless they have
    > professional representation or their day job makes real money,
    > would have difficulty spending what a professional would likely
    > charge for the job.


    Like you state it really has a lot to do with the requirements,
    which is why I attempted to provide some help. I think regardless
    there are people that charge fair prices for quality service provided
    and then there are those that gouge.


    --
    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
    to the American public."--Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918

    greg_____photo(dot)com
    G- Blank, Feb 7, 2006
    #9
  10. Anthony S

    Sheldon Guest

    "G- Blank" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > In article <>,
    > wrote:
    >>
    >> I understand the other comment about amateurs doing a professional's
    >> job, but the reality is that the average painter, unless they have
    >> professional representation or their day job makes real money,
    >> would have difficulty spending what a professional would likely
    >> charge for the job.

    >
    > Like you state it really has a lot to do with the requirements,
    > which is why I attempted to provide some help. I think regardless
    > there are people that charge fair prices for quality service provided
    > and then there are those that gouge.
    >
    >

    I know a lot of gallery owners who shoot their own photos to send to
    prospective clients, and a lot of artists who shoot their own work. Some is
    unacceptable crap, but unless the photos are for glossy magazines or for
    reproductions the shots generally don't have to be perfect. As you say, it
    depends on what they want to use the pictures for. And, the right equipment
    to do the job can even be prohibitive for a gallery owner.
    Sheldon, Feb 7, 2006
    #10
  11. Anthony S

    Hunt Guest

    In article <>,
    says...
    >
    >Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    >Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    >it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    >tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    >Anthony


    Anthony,

    Unless they are very small, or you love working at height, and have a really
    tall mono-stand, I'd hang them FLAT on a wall and work horizontal to the wall.
    Set your lights at 45 degrees and equidistant from the paintings. Level the
    paintings and level your tripod/camera. Lay out a string, at 90 degrees from
    the center, and plumb-bob your tripod center to it.

    If you have glass, or they paintings have relief and gloss, get some
    Polarizing media for each light (match the media for each light), and place a
    Polarizing filter on your lens. I'd opt for a very slight telephoto, so as to
    not introduce barrel distortion, but this means some working room.

    If you are having trouble getting the light even across the entirity of the
    painting (an incident light meter at each corner plus center, will tell you),
    then you might want to hang diffusion media in front of the lights. I liked
    Lowell Sof-lights for this type of work, but if you need to Polarize, then you
    may just have to move the lights WAY-Y-Y back to get even coverage.

    You might want to lock up the mirror, and use a shutter release, however that
    works with your camera. If you cannot do this, I'd hang ankle weights on the
    tripod, and be very, very careful with the shutter trip.

    Good luck,
    Hunt
    Hunt, Feb 7, 2006
    #11
  12. Anthony S

    Hunt Guest

    In article <>,
    says...
    >
    >In article <>,
    > "Anthony S" <> wrote:
    >
    >> Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    >> Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    >> it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    >> tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >>
    >> Anthony

    [SNIP]
    >
    >I would also consider the use of a color bar as well as an on Camera
    >POL.


    Good idea, that I forgot. Kodak has one, with a ruler built-in, that I stick
    below the paintings. Thanks for reminding me.

    Hunt
    Hunt, Feb 7, 2006
    #12
  13. "Anthony S" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    > Anthony


    You already have some good advice but I want to add a couple of little tips.
    I've some similar shots years ago with a film camera. Horizontal is better.
    Are all the paintings the same size or can they be grouped by size? Make a
    stand of some sort to hold them in the same position. Set up on a tripod
    and do a test shot or two. Print it out and determine what changes have to
    be made to fine tune lighting or focal length of the lens.

    Depending on the end use, there are many other considerations. Paintings
    don't always fill the screen or print size perfectly so use a background
    that is flattering or neutral. If they are merely a record of the paintings
    that will sit in a file drawer you don't need the same quality as for
    something going to be reproduced in poster size. Find out the expectations
    first to avoid problems later.
    Edwin Pawlowski, Feb 7, 2006
    #13
  14. Anthony S

    Ron Hunter Guest

    Anthony S wrote:
    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    > Anthony
    >

    Most important is light source, and angle. You need to avoid any
    reflection of the light source from the surface of the painting. Best I
    have found is directly in front of the painting with the light source as
    diffused as possible, and never use flash!
    Ron Hunter, Feb 7, 2006
    #14
  15. Anthony S

    Pat Guest

    The last few post have been very good advice.

    One cannot stress enough the orientation of your camera to the
    pictures. It is easiest if you have a flat surface to work against,
    not pictures hanging from a wall on a wire and leaning out a little.
    Horizontal or vertical will work. Horizontal is probably better, but
    it is harder to do unless you have the right equipment (which you
    don't) or the picture is small.

    Build a jig where you can hold the picture perfectly flat and at a
    given location. Put a dot on the spot where you will center the
    picture. Measure from the ground to the center of the dot. Put your
    lense relatively level and adjust your tripod to the center of your
    lense is the same height. Get close to the dot and center the dot in
    your viewfinder while keeping the center of your lense at the same
    height as the center of the dot.

    Move your camera into position. Measure out 3 or 4 feet from the dot
    (left, right, top and bottom) and put in a pushpin. Pins need to be
    exactly the same distance from the center of the dot. Move your camera
    so the center of your lense is EXACTLY the same distance from each of
    the pushpins. The dot has to be exactly in the center of the
    viewfinder.

    You have to do all of this to get rid of parralex. Otherwise your
    picture will be distorted. This is tough and time consuming and why
    another poster recommended professional equipment to do this.

    If you are moving the camera back and forth, put a plumbbob off of your
    tripod. Now put a piece of tap there as your reference. Run another
    piece of tap in a perfectly straight line to the spot exactly under the
    dot. Your plumbbob has to remain on that line at all times.

    Now go adjust your lights. 45 degrees from the dot. Generally at the
    same height as the dot, too.

    Put up a gray card, white backdrop or something with a consistant
    color. Photography it and check your lights to make sure the lighting
    is even. Pay particular attention to hot-spots or vignetting (light
    fadeoff near the edges). That is why previous poster suggested very
    soft light or polarized lights set back a ways. Make sure there is no
    light behind you. No lights other than the lights on the pictures.
    You don't want a reflection of you in the image.

    As you hand the pictures, you need to make sure they are exactly flat
    against the wall AND the center of the picture is at the center of the
    dot. It is possible to correct parralex in photoshop, but that causes
    its own set of problems. I think it is much easier to try to shoot the
    picture without any parralex to start wi

    Don't rush this job. To get good results, expect to have a couple of
    hours into setting it up. Expect a couple of more hours to take the
    pictures. Then at least an hour of beer-drinking afterwards. Believe
    me, you'll need it.

    All of this will get you a good copy, but not quality for high-quality
    reproduction. That you have to leave to a professional (and probably
    one that specializes in it). But it will get you a good quality copy
    to put on a website or to make slide of for a jury.

    If you don't want to go through all of this -- and who would want to --
    then just snap a picture with diffused lighting as it's hanging on the
    wall. I don't think there's much middle ground between doing it as a
    snapshot and doing it right.

    Good luck. I'd say "have fun", but you probably won't.

    p.s. The post that said bring a laptop is a great idea because you
    only want to do this once.
    Pat, Feb 7, 2006
    #15
  16. Anthony S

    Matt Clara Guest

    "Anthony S" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >
    > Anthony
    >


    Read Hunter and Fuqa's "Light: Science & Magic". (Hopefully I spelled Mr.
    Fuqa's name correctly, but it's doubtful.) That and some practice is all
    you'll need.

    --
    Regards,
    Matt Clara
    www.mattclara.com
    Matt Clara, Feb 8, 2006
    #16
  17. Anthony S

    Xiaoding Guest

    I get the impression this is not a fussy job.

    Don't worry about orientation, or distortion, cause you can fix that
    later with Photshop. You got Phototshop, right? Cause if you don't,
    then you will never get it right. I take pics of paintings at an
    angle, to eliminate the flash, then fix the angle later on. Works
    great.

    Just make sure you don't get a shine from your flash, or light source.
    You can't take that out. Try a few, see how they like it. If they
    don't like it, tell them to hire a professional who has the right
    equipment for the job. Oh, it does cost money.
    Xiaoding, Feb 10, 2006
    #17
  18. > Don't worry about orientation, or distortion, cause you can fix that
    > later with Photshop.


    I think this is very bad advice. Sure, it might be possible, but the
    results likely won't be as good, and it will almost certainly take far
    longer to even get close with Photoshop than it would to just line the
    shot up well in the first place. And this just suggests a certain
    amount of carelessness that probably will carry over into other aspects
    of the job (like getting the exposure and color right).

    Of course, if for some reason you must use flash, shooting at an angle
    might help, but the real answer is not to use flash. Professional
    photographers generally shoot with floods to either side, illuminating
    the center of the painting from 45 degree angles. Professional
    *artists* shooting their own work often simply take the work outside and
    shoot on an overcast day or in the shade on a sunny day - you can get
    pretty diffuse lighting this way. If the work is under glass, ask the
    artist if it's OK to remove it. Glass adds problems you would rather
    not deal with.

    Some things I've found to watch out for:

    - Be sure nothing is casting a shadow on the painting. Many easels will
    not only obscure the bottom quarter inch but also cast a shadow on the
    next quarter inch. I set up a table against a wall and set up the
    paintings on that. They lean backward a little, so I set up my tripod a
    bit high and angle it down. Try to get the painting as square in the
    frame as possible, and fill it up as much as possible too. Doing a
    whole bunch in a row the same size speeds things up a lot.

    - 50-100 is considered a good focal length for this kind of work,
    meaning the typical DSLR kit lens can get you right in that range once
    you account for the crop factor

    - Set a fairly narrow aperture to give yourself the best shot at having
    the whole painting nicely in focus.

    - Use a gray card to set exposure and white balance (and shoot RAW just
    in case). With luck, you won't actually need to fit these in
    postprocessing. Most people expect they'll need to do some, to get the
    colors just right. If you don't know that you have a well-calibrated
    monitor, you are probably better off trying to get things as good as
    possible in the shot. Adjusting color later is something the artist
    might want input in.

    - The great thing about shooting digital is the ability to crop down to
    just the image - this is how most competitions / shows / galleries will
    want the finished slides. But unless the artists asks you to do the
    cropping, he's probably better off doing it himself, as there are often
    judgement calls as to exactly where to crop.

    ---------------
    Marc Sabatella


    Music, art, & educational materials
    Featuring "A Jazz Improvisation Primer"
    http://www.outsideshore.com/
    Marc Sabatella, Feb 10, 2006
    #18
  19. Anthony S

    zeitgeist Guest


    > Hi. I was asked to shoot 50-60 paintings with a digital camera.
    > Should I lie each painting on the floor and shoot downwards? Or would
    > it be better to shoot them from a frontal view? Suggestions on a
    > tripod/gear, tec. Thanks.
    >


    As others suggested, hang images on a wall, square the camera up, use a
    slightly long lens.

    but I differ on the lighting, the concept of 4 lights as used on the typical
    copy stand was based on the old fashioned way of using flood lights. They
    needed to get as much as possible on the subject. they used four to smooth
    out hot spots, but using four highly specular lights causes many problems,
    especially if the paintings are made with texture and even more so with
    glossy paints, you'd end up with sparkly white spots all over. I would use
    two flash heads on either side aimed at the side walls, or get two panels of
    styrofoam insulation (peel the color plastic or logos off) this gives you
    light from two large sources instead of several small ones, highlights are
    diffuse and not blocked up sparkly. Pros used polaroid sheets over the
    lights with a filter set perpendicular to the orientation of the light's
    filter sheets, this limited the amount of glare. with large soft bounced
    light sources the glare problem is less.

    don't use anything auto, must be full manual, especially the white balance,
    otherwise whatever the sensor sees the most of, lots of red in this one,
    blue in that one will swing the color balance wildly. exposure works the
    same way, if the image is mostly white it will under expose the image,
    remember sensors assume a medium gray in color and exposure, it will expose
    a white sheet as if it were gray, same as a black sheet.

    tripod, use a cable release so you don't start a vibration with your trigger
    finger.
    zeitgeist, Feb 10, 2006
    #19
  20. Anthony S

    Matt Clara Guest

    "Xiaoding" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    >I get the impression this is not a fussy job.
    >
    > Don't worry about orientation, or distortion, cause you can fix that
    > later with Photshop. You got Phototshop, right? Cause if you don't,
    > then you will never get it right. I take pics of paintings at an
    > angle, to eliminate the flash, then fix the angle later on. Works
    > great.
    >
    > Just make sure you don't get a shine from your flash, or light source.
    > You can't take that out. Try a few, see how they like it. If they
    > don't like it, tell them to hire a professional who has the right
    > equipment for the job. Oh, it does cost money.
    >


    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0240802756/104-3664359-0557556?v=glance&n=283155

    --
    Regards,
    Matt Clara
    www.mattclara.com
    Matt Clara, Feb 10, 2006
    #20
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