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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Still Life, B/W & Experimental Talk
Thread started 10 Mar 2009 (Tuesday) 19:09
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How to photograph paintings and glass-covered artwork?

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ToddR's Avatar
766 posts
Joined Feb 2009
central Iowa
Mar 10, 2009 19:09 |  #1

A coworker mentioned that her artist/painter boyfriend needs to have some decent pictures taken of several paintings he has done in order to post on Ebay, etc.

Sounds like some items would be "mixed media," which to me means that there are some items that have "relief" to them because of the thickness of the materials,etc. that could potentially throw small shadows. Some are typical oil paints on canvas. Some items are also already matted under glass.

Any ideas or tips for this type of photography? I am equipped with a couple of AlienBees, so hopefully I can get some diffused light over them, but the glass could be a hassle if he doesn't want to pop them open.

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Tallgrass prairies of northwest Minnesota
Mar 10, 2009 19:13 |  #2

When shooting anything behind glass I use a polarizer filter to take care of reflections.

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Mar 10, 2009 19:30 |  #3

1) You don't say how big these works are but you'll need a solid, secure way to suspend the art work and/or your camera so you are perfectly square-on (not keystoned vertically or horizontally.)

Either an easel that can hold the artwork perfectly straight up and down and you on a tripod directly in front or else a copy stand where your camera is perfectly centered above the artwork laying flat.

2) Use as "normal" a lens as possible to avoid distortion along the edges and stop down to the sweet spot to maximize corner sharpness and avoid vignetting. Your 50 f/1.4 at f/8 would probably be best (although on a crop body, you're working at an 80mm Field of View so you may have to back up some.)

3) "Family of Angles" -- Be aware of reflections from the lights. Not only the obvious ones where the light is actually in the shot, but even being close enough to cause flare and loss of contrast. A circular polarizer would probably be helpful for the glass-covered works. Even oil paintings are glossy enough to throw back a lot of light.

I'd suggest you put a black background down behind/under the artwork as well.

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ToddR's Avatar
766 posts
Joined Feb 2009
central Iowa
Mar 10, 2009 22:40 as a reply to FlyingPhotog's post |  #4

Good ideas. Thanks. :)

She didn't elaborate, but I doubt anything is larger than "wall above the couch" in size.

I figured the pieces could rest on some sort of easel that he would surely have available, and a helper could keep it vertical with respect to the camera. I have an ancient beater tripod that should suffice.

Somewhere I have a polarizing filter for my old Canon AE-1 Program's 50mm f/1.8 lens, but it would be lucky if they were the same filter diameter. I haven't dug that stuff out since getting this new gear this year, though. Haven't shot it in ten years.

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Silver Lake, Los Angeles
Mar 10, 2009 23:05 |  #5

I shoot paintings for a living and have done many pieces behind glass without a problem. What I do is use a longer than normal lens, back up far enough, and then position the lights balanced on both sides but at a steep or shallow enough of an angle so that its not reflected in the camera. A little bit of experimentation should show you what the best positioning is.

You can always polarize too (preferably cross-polarize lights and lens, not just lens) but since this brings in color and contrast shifts its not always the best solution for photographing artwork. Just back up far enough and experiment with the angles and you should be good to go.

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How to photograph paintings and glass-covered artwork?
FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Still Life, B/W & Experimental Talk

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