Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Photograph Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures

Turn OFF the Flash! 
To illustrate this point, here are two pictures of a drawing of my shoe. The piece was lying on the floor, I was standing on a chair shooting down, and natural light was coming in windows to the top and either side of my drawing. Here are the shots with flash (top view) 
and without (bottom view)

There are numerous reasons that a work of art's owner might require a photograph of the painting, drawing or object in question. Aside from having the ability to email one's entire address book a digital image of a cool new (expensive) etching, a visual record may also be required for homeowner insurance purposes. 
LINK How to Photograph Paintings (More info see comment)

1 comment:

rjvddoes said...

I can give some tips for an advanced method if you want to photograph varnished oil paintings that have a rough structure. In this case the problem arises that the bumpy surface is rather glossy because of the varnish. Those bumps that are more or less semi spherical will reflect light from almost any angle.
To minimize this problem you can buy 2 polarizer gels of 50cm x 50cm.
Take a polarizer filter that you can mount on your lens and hold it in front of one of the gels. Look through both these filters and rotate the gel filter until the combination of both blocks all the light passing through.
Put this gel in this position in front of one of two lights positioned at a 45 degree angle on either side of the painting.
Repeat this process for the other gel filter (without altering the rotation of the lens polarizer).
Mount the lens polarizer in front of your lens, again without altering its rotation.
Now you have almost reflection free lighting. One note however, you will need rather strong lights, especially if you are photographing large paintings. The light loss caused by double polarizers is quite substantial.

Another tip for avoiding reflections in large paintings when using lights:
When you have lights with barndoors you can use the light on the left side to light the right side of the painting and the light on the right side to light the left side of the painting. Use the barndoors of both lights to make a vertical shadow for each light that falls in the middle of the painting. If you do this precisely you can butt these shadows together in such a way that you can't see any brighter overlap or darker dip in light level.

Robbert-Jan van der Does