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Photographing Art - How to get it to look like the original art


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Hi all,

Currently I spend a lot of time correcting photos of art and I often say "there must be an easier way!" One of the main problems, for instance, is a detailed pencil sketch always looks rather gray in the photograph and bumping up levels, contrast, or other things to get a nice white background will often white out the fine details of the pencil. Eventually I like my final product, but it takes me a long time to get there. Watercolor or oil paintings I've made can be difficult as well, especially portraits with skin tones, to get the color, texture, and transparency to look like the actual artwork. I'm definitely more of an artist than a photographer, so I basically have the camera set on automatic and would welcome any advice beyond that. I've also tried a scanner at 600 fine DPI, but didn't really like that when looked at close up. I've read that some people have had good success in paying for scans at places like Kinkos, but I've not tried that. I'd love one of those super expensive museum archive quality art scanners! (OK, I'm dreaming about that).

 

 

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hello Abbie, I have over 1500 paintings in my Port and website, Pencil,watercolor,charcoal. pretty much everything. I've shot for Museums, Galleries and many other artists work. Many tricks. E-mail or PM me and we can set a time to talk. Scanning is not the way.

laurin.

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I had a job for 4 years where half of my time was spent photographing flat art, charts and graphs with an 8x10 inch camera. If Laurin doesn't set you straight, which is highly unlikely, post here again. You can also Google - Photographing flat artwork. 

 

http://www.mikenortonphotography.com

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Having done around 30,000 flat art reproductions in my life (all on film 35mm, 6x7cm and 4x5") I would have to say that the thing you need to do is to light it correctly and evenly. Use lighting that is consistent in colour temperature for all the series (studio flash) and don't use softboxes which completely take away the specular character of the light. Ensure that the flat artwork does not reflect your light source (need to keep the lights a fair distance away on either side of the work). Should require very little post processing. Make tests with a colour card beforehand to ensure correct Kelvin temperature of the light and you should also include the small Kodak colour card/grey card in every shot to check that the temperature and colours are good in every shot. Manual focus your lens always as many patterns in flat artwork can fool your AF.

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Perfectly correct. Please call. for other simple tricks. It's all about getting it in Camera.

 

"I would have to say that the thing you need to do is to light it correctly and evenly"

 

Forget any software.

Laurin's right! Like I said I did that kind of work for 4 years. Between 1979 and 1983 . . . way before Photoshop.

 

http://www.mikenortonphotography.com

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As has been said, bare lights, no softbox. Two or four (for larger paintings) matching lights at 45º angle between the camera and the art work.

For the best lighting, both the lens AND the lights should be polarized and in opposite planes to remove all reflections. Finally include a grey strip in the shot which you can crop out later. Take multiple shots until the grey strip is properly exposed so you can use it in Photoshop (or Lightroom etc.) to set your white, black and neutral colors.

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Since you haven't called yet.....  no strobes. Blue 500W Photofloods in reflectors [smith Victor] i used a white bedsheet on a stand in front of both Bulbs as a diffuser. 45 degrees Camera in the middle of the triangle and get a bubble level for art and camera. MUST be on the same Plane and height.  I use Auto WB with digital,Daylight slide chrome Before.. The idea is to represent the item exactly as it is.. My assistant who was with me for years now works at the Smithsonian has to shoot Clothes,jewelry,Guns,books,documents,Flat art , statutes and whatever 8 hours a day for the last 3 years. He uses 4 x 5 Digital backs on a Linhof. the technique is the same. 2 500w Blue Photofloods, bedsheets,ruler and level. Once you get it down, it's really easy. Honest...it is. heres a simple diagram.Once you've done a bunch it actually gets quite boring. I did galleries and other artists for catalogs and zed cards for gallery shows, 5 on one side and one on the other. I only do mine now. what is more fun is 3D stuff as in statues and Items.

post-1347993-0-33121600-1439268262_thumb.jpg

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Perfectly correct. Please call. for other simple tricks. It's all about getting it in Camera.

 

"I would have to say that the thing you need to do is to light it correctly and evenly"

 

Forget any software.

"Forget any software"

 

I do not completely agree with this. :)

Times change, techniques and technologies evolve.

What was absolutely right yesterday is not always right today.

I have made a lot of Art repro in my life too (mostly Bernard Buffet works but not only [some Picasso, Dalí, Magritte, Botero, too]… ), with a Sinar 8 x 10" and Broncolor flashes.

 

As said before a good direct light (with the lamps placed correctly - 45º - like on your scheme), a perfect focus (the plan of the film should be perfectly parallel to the plan of the art work*) is the base to get a good result.

At this time (I speak of the '80) the result was excellent.

 

But why to not use the possibilities offered by the modern technologies? 

A little Tonal contrast filter can help a lot to recuperate/enhance some very thin details (think about engraving for example).

Of course the use of these softwares should be very very very light - the values should be no more than 5 or 7% (you should not notice that a software has been used, but just "feel" that you have more detail).

And by the way you will always keep the original image (raw) without any correction and/or filter applied.

 

* A trick to have the film/sensor perfectly parallel to the work that you must reproduce (without using a spirit level): put a mirror in place of the Art work; when you see (the reflection of) your lens in the middle of the camera viewfinder you are perfectly parallel.

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* A trick to have the film/sensor perfectly parallel to the work that you must reproduce (without using a spirit level): put a mirror in place of the Art work; when you see (the reflection of) your lens in the middle of the camera viewfinder you are perfectly parallel.

 I use an inclinometer to ensure parallel planes

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Yes, times change..Thank god. I still do this every week when i finish a painting. materials cost next to nothing. My smith Victor reflectors have to be 30 years old. My 2 wht bedsheets I got for 3 dollars work great as huge diffusers , a couple of 5 dollar 500 W Blue photofloods,tripod,Easel or flat wall in a blacked out studio and Im good to go. My small paintings are 5 x 7 Inches and large is 8ft x 8ft. No problem. When I did this for clients I dressed it up a Bit so I could charge more...LOL or I had them just drop off the work.20 Years ago a friend of mine started a business out in pasadena doing Nothing but fineart copy work. Made a fortune. No reason to go overboard. It's a pretty simple process.

 

Alain said and i agree "But why to not use the possibilities offered by the modern technologies?"  Of course. if you can afford it. The OP may not. same process, Just shiny new stuff. LOL :rolleyes:

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If your subject is not perfectly horizontal or vertical it becomes hard. The mirror never fails ;)

you have to use it on both the camera and the artwork and both the camera sensor/film plane and the artwork have to be the same obviously.

 

Everybody has his/her own ways and whatever works.

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you have to use it on both the camera and the artwork and both the camera sensor/film plane and the artwork have to be the same obviously.

 

Everybody has his/her own ways and whatever works.

Oops, sorry I wanted to edit my previous post and I have deleted it.

 

I wanted to add that with the mirror technique you will also center very fast the camera and that it is very useful when you have huge painting like the ones that you can find in some churches.

 

But yes different ways are valid, and today it is easy to have an inclinometer in the smartphone. In 1979 it was not possible.

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But yes different ways are valid, and today it is easy to have an inclinometer in the smartphone. In 1979 it was not possible.

 

 

 

I use an old fashioned one, which probably dates back to 1979 lol, I can set it and screw it tight so it's always precise

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I use an old fashioned one, which probably dates back to 1979 lol, I can set it and screw it tight so it's always precise

 

Maybe if you sale it to some antiquarian you will make a lot of more money than with  microstock photos :D

 

I understand you!

We, seasoned photographers, are often attached to our old pieces of gear and to our habits, as they continue to do they dirty job correctly. 

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