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How to best take picture of artworks with a digital camera.


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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   DustinLC

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Posted August 29 2005 - 11:32 AM

All my life with cameras and digital cameras, I've always used auto mode for taking pictures because I could never really figure out if the other features make a difference.

Well, recently, I've been taking photos of my paintings. I was forced to explore. What I've learned is that I must do it at very low even lighting and use photo shop to increase the lighting later. With greater light source, the paintings are washed out and no photoshop can fix that and also there's reflection because of the semiglossy nature of the paint. I must put it in a tripod and set a timer so it would remain absolutely still to capture the best resolution possible. I also have it on portrait setting instead of auto (I think that helps. Don't really know).

So that turns out pretty well once I fix the brightness with photoshop. It's steady and pretty clear. Not perfect so I look into exposure time. I really don't understand how this work even though I read the manual :b. I thought when you increase exposure time, you get better resolution. Instead, I get a very bright picture. What am I doing wrong?

Any comments, advices?

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Greg_R

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Posted August 29 2005 - 12:22 PM

Read up on 'white balance'... many digital cameras can correct for poor light temperatures (too blue, too red, etc.).

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Seth_L

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Posted August 29 2005 - 12:34 PM

Increasing exposure time lets more light into the camera. It will not improve the resolution any.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Garrett Lundy

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Posted August 29 2005 - 12:42 PM

Diffuse the light to deal with with shiny paint. Try taping a coffee filter (a clean filter!) over your light while you take the picture.
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#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Ari

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Posted August 29 2005 - 01:09 PM

What camera are you using?? Does it have any manual controls at all?? If you can change the aperture, set it at around f8-f11. If you can't set the aperture, try using the "landscape" setting.

You've got the right idea by putting your camera on a tripod and using a timer. If you can redirect your lighting source, try bouncing it off something (a wall, a ceiling, a piece of foam board). A larger light source will soften the light and produce less glare.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted August 29 2005 - 01:36 PM

You should avoid having to do touch-ups in photoshop.

Light is your friend. You want as much as possible. It is much easier to reduce light in the camera or on your computer as opposed to increase it because of a lack of. As others have said, aim the light away from the paintings and bounce it back so that it is diffused and evenly filled out. As Ari said, foam boards are an excellent inexpensive way of doing this. Buy a few big pieces. I'd be hesitant to stick a coffee filter in front of a light -- sounds like a fire hazard. You'd be better off spending $20 for a Tota-brella. If you're trying to sell your paintings through the digital pictures, it may be worth investing in a light kit.

And like Greg said, learn how to white balance. Very easy and very essential.
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#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 29 2005 - 04:19 PM

The easiest thing to do is shoot outdoors on a bright, overcast day, so the light is bright but diffuse.

Set the painting on an easel or other secure, level stand or surface. Make sure there are no bright light sources behind you that can cause glare. If you get glare off the paint surface, consider using a Circular Polarizer. This filter will reduce glare when rotated into a certain position with the sun at a right angle to the lens.

You don't say what you're using for a camera, so I'm making some general assumptions of your camera's controls and optics. Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av), and set the f-stop 2 - 3 stops down from wide open (f8 - f11 for most lenses). 2 - 3 stops from wide open is the sweet spot for most lenses, which will give the best sharpness and definition. In Av mode, your camera will set the shutter speed to provide an optimum exposure.

Use a tripod and cable release (or self timer).

If you must light with artificial light, do so indoors, under controlled circumstances. You'll need two diffuse light sources, set 45 degrees off camera axis to the work. It will be very difficult to get an even exposure without two light sources.

As good as Photoshop is, it is ALWAYS preferable to capture the best exposure possible, and do as little tweaking as possible in software.

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#8 of 12 OFFLINE   DustinLC

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Posted August 30 2005 - 04:32 AM

Oh I'm sorry. It's a digital camera Canon S50. I forgot to mention it. I gave up on film cameras for taking photos of art because it got too expensive. Sometime I would get zero good one out of 24.

Quote:
If you must light with artificial light, do so indoors, under controlled circumstances

Artificial light gives the yellowing effect so I avoided that but I'm sure there's certain lights that don't. The photos taken indoor are natural light from the windows.

Quote:
The easiest thing to do is shoot outdoors on a bright, overcast day, so the light is bright but diffuse.

Many people tell me this and it seems to make sense. I've tried outdoor and it's still too bright under clouding condition. I understand that good lighting gives better resolution than low lighting but the washed out effect is due to the lack of contrast. Outdoor is great for taking photos of other stuff but it's challenging under so much light when you're trying to distinguish one shade of pink over another. Still, I think there is a way to make it work outdoor. I just need to experiment with some of the suggestions provided here.

Quote:
Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av), and set the f-stop 2 - 3 stops down from wide open (f8 - f11 for most lenses). 2 - 3 stops from wide open is the sweet spot for most lenses. In Av mode, your camera will set the shutter speed to provide an optimum exposure.

If my camera has this feature, I'll look into it.


Quote:
Read up on 'white balance'

I'll try to read up on it again :b .

Also, I'm taking the photo only a few feet away. Depending on the size of the painting, it could get as close as 2-3ft. I do this to get the best resolution possible. Don't know if this will make any difference in our discussion.

Now I know why so many artists choose to do their artwork small in size and on masonite. That way, they will just scan it. This is true with book cover artists.

I appreciate the tips Posted Image

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Mark Sherman

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Posted August 30 2005 - 07:20 AM

What type of art work? is there going to be any Glass? Get a tri pod. If you are going to do any type of long exposure you will want to use a Tri Pod. or try and Use modeling lights this way you can see exactly where the light is going to fall that way eliminating any glare.


Remember to bracket 1 stop over and one stop under.
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#10 of 12 OFFLINE   DustinLC

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Posted August 30 2005 - 08:06 AM

Yes. I always use tripod and timer.

They're canvas acrylic or oil paintings ranges 16x20" to 5x6 ft.

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted August 30 2005 - 12:25 PM

Artificial light gives the yellowing effect so I avoided that but I'm sure there's certain lights that don't.


White balance will instantly correct this. To over simplify what balancing does: you give the camera a point of reference for what white it is. When it has this, your "yellow effect" will be gone.
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#12 of 12 OFFLINE   DustinLC

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Posted August 31 2005 - 04:12 AM

Seth, didn't know that. Thanks!


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