Re: How to photograph an oil painting

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by nick c, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. nick c

    nick c Guest

    Jennifer Murphy wrote:
    > I need to get a very high resolution digital image of a 20" x 24" oil
    > painting so I can make a photo-quality print at near full size (20x24).
    > I first tried with my Nikon Coolpix S8200. I didn't really think it
    > would work, but wanted to see what I could do.
    > The first problem I had was with glare. The flash is out. The oil
    > painting has a very high gloss finish that reflects any direct light.
    > Light from a window, even indirect light produces either a washed out
    > effect or a lot of little bright specks relecting off the high spots in
    > the brush strokes. I was never able to solve that problem.
    > The other problem I had was getting a perfectly rectangular image. Some
    > had a fisheye effect. Some had whatever the opposite of that is. Some
    > had fairly straight edges, but one side was longer than the opposite
    > one. I thought I had the camera centered and perpendicular, but
    > obviously not.
    > Most of my images are about 5-6 MB, even on the highest-resolution
    > settings. The S8200 has two hughest settings. The 16M setting says it's
    > 4608x3456 with a compression ratio of about 1:8. The 16M* setting has
    > the same pixel count, but at a lower compression ratio of about 1:4. I
    > tried it at both settings. I could not tell the difference in either the
    > image quality of the image size.
    > Next, I asked a friend who is an avid amateur photographer. She has a
    > high end Nikon SLR. I don't recall the model number, but it's very
    > large. The lens is twice the size of my little camera.
    > The first few shots she took had the same glare and distortion problem
    > that I had.
    > To solve the glare problem, she propped the painting up on a stairway so
    > we could get it as perfectly vertical as possible. Then she closed all
    > the shutters and turned off all the lights. This was in the afternoon,
    > so there was still ambient light, but it was quite dim in the room. She
    > then set the camera on a tripod with the long exposure. We then held a
    > blanket up behind the camera to block all direct light. When she pushed
    > the shutter button, the camera took a shot that had the shuitter open
    > for about 4-5 seconds.
    > The result is a .psd file that is about 130MB. There is no glare and the
    > colors are excellent. The only problem is that the image is not quite
    > rectangular. It's not off by much, but it is noticeable.
    > On my computer screen, the measurements of the four sides are:
    > Left 7 1/2+
    > Right 7 3/4
    > Top 9 1/8
    > Bottom 9 1/4+
    > It looks like the camera was a little below and to the right of center.
    > We didn't measure it, but we did try to line it up by eye so that the
    > lens was dead center and pointing along a line that was perpendicular to
    > the face of the canvas.
    > I guess we need to reshoot. I'd appreciate any help getting it right the
    > next time -- short of hiring a professional.

    Jenny, I have a suggestion to make to diminish surface glare. It's not a
    new trick, pro's of olden days used this set-up and I've used it myself
    many times.

    1- Mount the painting on a chair or any mount that allows the painting
    to stand vertically. I suggest using a chair for reasons that will follow.

    2- Mount (and set-up) the camera on a tripod.

    3- Align the painting in a manner that will be axially aligned with the
    center-line of the camera lens/sensor.

    4- Between the camera and the painting, on both sides of the
    camera/painting, place two chairs (small 5 or 6 foot household
    stepladders ladders will also work well) so that the backside of the
    chairs are facing inboard. In other words, construct a canopy with a

    5- Cover the entire set-up so that no spot-light sees the surface of the
    painting. Do not allow the bed-sheet to sag in the middle. Sometimes an
    ironing-board (broom and mop handles will also work well) may be all you
    need to support the bed-sheet canopy and prevent it from sagging.
    Wash-line clothespins may be needed to tighten the sides of the
    bed-sheets to the chairs (or ladders).

    6- Flood the outside area with light (from flash, windows, bulbs, or
    fluorescents). I've used flash (for small objects) and sunlight
    (daylight) streaming from close by windows for objects such as
    paintings. All light must come from the outside of the canopy.

    7- Set your exposure setting and photo framing for the camera you intend
    to use. When ready to take the photo, set the camera to auto /time/
    exposure or use a camera chord to fire the camera.

    Note:- All light from the outside of the sheet should flood the interior
    area of the sheeted canopy. Finish cropping and sizing using computer
    software that you have access to and know how to use.
    nick c, Mar 30, 2013
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