Hello. I paint with oils and i need some advice on photographing my paintings. Does anyone know how to reduce the glare and reproduce the colours as accurately as possible? These are my two biggest problems. Thanks.
I have been using 2 Lowell tungsten Tota Lights and a polarizing filter with digital camera on tripod to photograph my wet paintings for years. Works well for me. Shooting in Raw with a gray card and adjusting the Kº to 3500 when Raw opens (exposure, saturation etc.) make for better images as well. Keeping monitor calibrated
One thing about reflections, they add the color or light bounced on the image.
Barring the (advanced and reliable) advice using polarizing filters and more-expensive cameras, I have found success with placing a black surface (I've used the same black museum board for the past 5 years) on the far side of the horizontally-placed painting, with sunlight (or whatever is the most-incoming light) coming from the painting's upper left. Include a square of black velvet on a white card, photo'd in the same image.
This gives good rendition of the brush-strokes and texture, as well as auto-adjusting the value range. Taking that raw digital image into Photoshop [or (free) GIMP.org], I first slightly sharpen it ("46" on a 1.6 px sample) and run a "curves" pass to get the full value range.... If the comparison falls short, I simply run an Auto-Color on it, (which reads the B/W card). They are almost always good on the first run. This way works using a $150 camera or a $4500 D80. BTW, if you are ever making tiny thumbs for on-line viewing, bump the contrast and saturation waaay up.
I've been dealing with this glare issue while photographing nocturnes all month. They're dark and wet because I post them the following morning and need the pics to be as good as possible then.
The only solution to glare on a dark, wet painting is to use a 'circular' polarizing filter on the camera, and a polarizing gel on the lights. I still have to try the light gel, but the pros tell me that is the only way to really reduce it, to catch it at both ends.
Shooting outside is good. Although shooting on the north side of the house really throws a cool cast over the pics that takes some work to recover from. My other problem with shooting outside concerns the need for pics 'NOW', like for ads, shows, clients, galleries, those needs when you need to shoot right away. I don't know where you live, but I live in Minnesota where you just can't count on being able to haul a painting outside anytime you want to because of weather. Rain, sleet, snow, wind,and temps that stop batteries in cameras from working have all caused me to give up on shooting outside.
A friend and artist Frank Gardner shoots all of his paintings flat on the ground in the full sun and they look great!!! But he lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where there is sun all year and almost no rain. So if he needs to shoot a painting on a moments notice, unless it's dark, he can. ;)
For me it has to be done in the studio. I shoot under a mix of color balance fluorescents, natural light, and even halogen lights. It doesn't matter what light I shoot under (getting rid of glare is a bigger problem), I get nearly perfect color that usually only needs to have the levels adjusted in Photoshop, for value. I shoot one shot of each painting, maybe a couple to bracket light levels.
I show everyone who I have in workshops a simple solution to doing this. Shooting RAW is good, I use an 18% Gray Card and a color bar and try to shoot with those in each shot of a painting. If you ever have your paintings reproduced as giclee's, or in an article or an ad, the people(or you) who do your production will greatly appreciate the color bar (in some cases they require it) being there for the printer. Even with a correctly balanced monitor printing is difficult to have the outcome look like your work looks on the computer. I have a large format Epson and do my own archival reproductions and go through many, many sheets of paper proofing the images until the output looks as close to the original as is possible. The image of the painting on the screen is usually different looking than the output. I know there is a fairly expensive gadget that will calibrate your screen even better... haven't spent the money on that.
Here's the valuable little tid bit of info for getting good color in ANY light, but be sure to have enough light, digital needs light.
Look in your manual for the camera and find out how to set the camera's 'Manual or Custom' White Balance function. What this does is tell the camera to read white (I use the 18% Gray Card) or 18% gray correctly given the light you're shooting in. It's different for each make of camera.
Once you know that...put a white board (foam core works well) or the gray card in the same light as the painting is in. Measure and set the camera's Custom White Balance by taking the reading off of the white or gray board. You have now fine tuned the White Balance to the light you are taking the picture in. Anytime the light changes, re calibrate the camera.
I shoot with the painting vertically in the easel, put the camera in a tripod (a must), align the camera so that there is no parallax or distortion, set it for a timed exposure release, shoot.
I like to shoot them so that they appear slightly darker than they should. That allows you room for the light values to retain color and not be blown out, over exposed. You can't get that color back if they're over exposed, but you can lighten in 'levels' and retain the color.
We should all remember that
-lens pillowing or ballooning can be adjusted-for in any Photoshop after CS3 under Filter> Lens Adjustment.
-Almost every digital image will require sharpening, if minimal.
-Any "jpeg artifacting" (wildly colored pixels near edges or high contrast) can also be eliminated in PSD (unnecessary if shooting RAW format)
-You can fake HDMI image in PSD now (search for techs), or take directly in a DSLR. This ensures you the wide tonal range you want.
-Black background card can handle reflected light well and reliably.
-I agree that setting-up in studio is the best and most reproducible soln.
Some good advice here, most I agree with. I have a Nikon DSLR but rarely use it. I prefer my Canon G9, very handy and easy to use.
The truth is in good light, as you would have outdoors on most days, almost any camera will give you a pretty good picture...good enough for most purposes. The DSLR is way better for low light or if you have areas of uniform color/value and if you want to make large prints from the image. Would anyone take photos of paintings in low light? Naw. So, if you have a newer digital camera it should be fine for online use and for prints up to 8x10" maybe even larger.
I took rush photos for another artist yesterday. Some were behind glass and we didn't have time to take them apart. I had her hold them in the sun so the rays were at a raking angle and then tilt it this way and that to minimize the reflections. The idea is the painting with the sun on it is so much brighter than the reflections in the glass that you only see the painting in the photo. With more time I would have set up my stand and black cloth with a small hole in the middle for the camera lens. But this worked well enough.
Open shade is best for work with white or very light areas. Always use a tripod in the shade, less critical in the sun, use it anyway. Always use 'Manual'. always under expose and bracket. Shooting on 'Auto' will just about guarantee you burn out the light areas.
Color is truest in full sun. Often it will look very different than the painting hanging on the wall indoors.