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Murray Bloom

4 Years Ago

How To Photograph Your Art

There's been considerable confusion about the best way to photograph your art. I've made hundreds of image copies over the years and I thought I'd take the time to describe a method and the materials that will give you a good result every time, without costing arms and legs. You might want to print this out for reference, because it will be fairly long. Also, I'm going to assume that you haven't got a lot of expensive photo gear, nor do you want to buy it. And, for the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to assume that your art is flat, or in low to moderate relief.


The Equipment:

First, I'll assume that you have a camera. While point and shoot cameras will work, what you really want is a DSLR that's got at least about a 10 megapixel sensor. More megapixels is better and they're getting cheaper every day. The reasons I recommend a DSLR are several, including better optics, lens interchangeability, more and more easily accessible functions, like manual focus, aperture control, and others.

Use a lens that's well-suited to the job, and use it correctly. While a macro lens is best because of it's inherent close-up sharpness and flatness of field, you can successfully use almost any lens. If it's a zoom lens, set it somewhere near the middle of its zoom range and leave it there. You'll adjust the framing by moving the camera, not by zooming. Why, you ask? Because zooms have less geometric distortion near the center of their range, and are usually most sharp there, too.

Next, you have a choice. Either a tripod or copy stand is essential. If all you're going to use the tripod for is copying art, you can get away with a fairly inexpensive one, since it won't get any rough use and will still hold the camera steady. But, if you want to shoot with a tripod in the field, get one that's substantial and rock steady, even in windy environments. Either a 3-axis (standard) or ball-type head will work, but I prefer the traditional 3-axis head for copy work because fine adjustments are easier and repeatable.

A copy stand is a specialized type of tripod, typically with a baseboard and a vertical column which supports the camera mount. Copy stands can be purchased relatively inexpensively on eBay, from online sellers, or at camera shops (ask about used ones). You'll want one where the column will elevate the camera at least about two feet for paintings, or less for small items like jewelry and small or miniature paintings. Now here's a trick you may not be aware of. If you own a tripod, you can invert the elevator column. Simple remove the column and stick it back in from the bottom so that the camera hangs between the tripod's legs. You now have a three-legged copy stand!

Invest in a cheap pair of photo lamps, reflector type, with stands. You can use clamp-type reflector lamps (mounted on chairs, or whatever you have), but light stands are so much easier to use, and again, there are cheap ones out there. I don't recommend shooting art outdoors. You want control of the light, and sunlight is very variable when it comes to intensity and hue.


The Procedure:

Mount your art on a wall or place it on the bottom of the copy stand (or a hard floor if you're using the tripod trick). Make sure it is flat against the wall or floor. If you're using a wall, the art doesn't have to be exactly level. Now go get your camera and tripod, or simply attach the camera to your copy stand. The important thing is that the camera be positioned so that the lens is as close to being centered on the image as possible. That is important. Now here's the catch for tripod users. The camera must be perfectly vertical. Many tripods have a bubble level to verify this, but you can either buy a bubble level (they're really cheap), or simply eyeball the camera to level it. The lens should be pointing straight sideways (downward with the tripod trick). If you have a copy stand, it should level the camera automatically.

Now frame the image by moving the camera closer or further away from the art as required, keeping it's borders just inside the visible frame in the viewfinder or LCD screen. Avoid zooming for all but final framing adjustments. Also avoid using the tripod head's adjustments. If you have to re-center the image, move the tripod and/or change the height of the center column. Turning or tipping the camera introduces "keystoning," which means that your image will taper toward one end. Side-to side tilt adjustments are okay. The camera lens must remain perpendicular to the art in all planes.

Now, get your lights. Position one on each (opposite) side of the art. They should be about 45-degrees from the artwork. In other words, as far from the wall (or baseboard or floor) as they are from the art. Move the lamps back far enough to evenly illuminate the art. Do this one lamp at a time and expect one side to be slightly brighter because it's closer to the lamp. The opposing lamps will compensate for this. The angle will keep you from getting glare from reflected light. You can use photo bulbs if you want, but the truth is, with digital cameras, any popular kind of bulb will work (tungsten or quartz). I'd avoid fluorescent lamps, though, even CFLs. The problem is that they flicker and are very sensitive to electrical fluctuations. Just make sure that you use the same type and wattage bulb in each reflector. Also, they don't have to be high power bulbs. 60-watts will probably be enough, maybe more for really large art where the lamps will have to be very far away to ensure coverage; and conversely, less for small art. You also don't to pour a lot of high-wattage light on your art because their heat can cause warping or popping.

Okay, now you have your art well-lit and ready to photograph. But there's something else to consider, color temperature (white balance). Digital cameras all have an automatic white balance setting. Don't use it if you can avoid it. If your camera has a custom white balance feature (most do), learn how to use that, instead. The reason not to use AWB is that it tries to make your picture neutral gray overall. This means that if your art is predominantly blue, the camera will add yellow, if your art is green, the camera will add magenta, etc. Custom white balance adjusts the camera to the light, not the art. Basically, what you'll be doing (check your camera's manual for specifics) is to put a white or gray surface (I use white mat board) in front of the art (draw a few black lines on it to give your camera something to focus on). Next, you'll take a reading with your camera (like taking a picture). This tells the camera all it needs to know about the color of the light and it will adjust itself to the best setting. Once you've set the white balance, you're ready to start shooting. Note, once you've reached this point, you can photograph multiple pieces of art by simply substituting one for another. The color of the art won't matter.

When shooting your artwork, vibration is the enemy. Ideally, you'll want to use a remote release to trigger the camera, whether a cable, wired, or wireless type. If you don't have any of those, don't fret. You can use the camera's self timer feature to delay the shot until any vibration from touching the camera has settled down. If your camera has a provision to lock its mirror up, use it.

So, your camera is pointed perfectly at the art and your lighting is flawless. It's time to focus. Most auto-focus systems are pretty good, nowadays, but I still prefer to focus manually when copying art. You can do either, depending on your comfort level and how good your camera's optical viewfinder is when it comes to critical focusing. Don't manually focus with an LCD screen, let your camera do it.

As for camera settings, I recommend that you shoot in Aperture Priority mode. Set your f-stop to f8, since most lenses are sharpest at or about this setting, and it will also handle a reasonable amount of relief in the artwork. Now, after you've done all the work to get to this point, you want to ensure that you get a good exposure. Since your camera will adjust itself to the brightness of your art, you'll want to make some alternate exposures to be sure you get a shot which is faithful to the subject's overall brightness. This is known as 'bracketing." It's easy to do, as all digital cameras permit you to make exposure adjustments. I recommend that you shoot five exposures, using the exposure adjustments to cover a range of -1, -.5, 0, +.5 and +1 on the scale. If your art is extremely bright or dark, you may want to extend this range even further.

If you've followed these instructions, your camera will now be filled with excellent copy images ready to import to your computer for final tweaking (cropping, color correction if necessary, tonal adjustments), since the reality is that no camera is perfect in all respects.

Now, you will have images that accurately reflect your art and will meet all POD standards.

Happy Shooting!

Reply Order

Post Reply
 

Andrey Soldatenko

4 Years Ago

Murray, thank you very much. information is very useful

 

Vivian ANDERSON

4 Years Ago

Many thanks for the comprehensive, helpful info, Murray. It's really really good of you to bother with this, and I'm personally very grateful. ..Vivian

 

Added to the FAQ

 

Jon Schaubhut

4 Years Ago

Nice post. I'm experimenting and even thought the AWB seems to be a learning curve with my Canon EOS Rebel I shot using shade mode and it made a nice difference.

 

Angelina Vick

4 Years Ago

Wow....interesting read Murray....and I am doing it ALL WRONG!

(Angels puts her chin down to her chest and walks away like Charlie Brown.)

 


===== FWIW - Here's my typical work-flow for image acquisition and processing =======

I want to qualify the following post by stating that I am not a professional still photographer. Obviously there are some very serious and talented photographers who post on this site, some clearly have extensive schooling and training. My intent in posting this survey is to perhaps receive some input from the pros, who have forgotten more than I'll ever learn. I am open to any and all comments/suggestions.

To me, the first place to start, when seeking the best quality imagery, is to understand what you're trying to achieve...in this case, it is to acquire the clearest, crispest native image possible, given the limitation of your equipment.

Lights:

That means, the lighting component of the process is extremely critical. The more you can control your lighting environment, the more consistency you'll have, and the greatest likelihood of a good outcome. To that end I shoot in a very controlled lighting environment with artificial lights...as soft as I can get it, using umbrellas, or bouncing off the ceiling etc., or even hanging some translucent visqueen that unsharpens the light source.

I don't shoot in sunlight because there is too much temperature variation, during different times of the day, and unless its overcast, the light is very sharp which can cause reflection/unwanted surface shadows etc. If you must shoot outside consider using a polarizing filter, to knock down the glare/reflection. So, two 500w halogen work lights, Home Depot or whatever...set at 45 degrees...if too much light, moving the light back will lessen the lumens. I always shoot at night in my studio, or cover the window, so no ambient outside can mess with white balance...the temperature of the light stays consistent from session to session. I also always place a 100% pure white swatch in the frame which gives me an absolute white balance source, which can be most helpful when doing color phasing correction in Photoshop...Once you get a routine, you'll find the settings will be dialed in and you'll always end up with a good faithful image.

Obviously, the better the native image, the better the end result...so taking a little extra time in the process will save you tons of time in the image processing phase...the old lipstick on a pig bromide...it's still a pig.:)

Camera:

OK. The next critical step for me is insure that my camera is ready for what I'm want to accomplish. I ALWAYS MANUAL FOCUS...and I turn off Image Stabilization. If your shooting with a zoom, and not a prime lens, then shoot in the telephoto mode as you'll have less distortion, like fish-eyeing, or pin cushioning. If you have enough ambient SOFT light, the next step is to prioritize you light settings. I always shoot with the smallest aperture f-stop (f 16 typically if I can manage it) Remember, the larger the f-stop number the smaller the aperture, the smaller the iris. This promotes better depth of field, so the focus range is much more forgiving. You might have to adjust/slowdown the shutter speed to accommodate the small iris....but since you're not trying to capture objects in motion(hopefully:) you can shoot slower to allow more light.

For this reason, always shoot from a tripod to prevent motion blur...the most common artifact from hand held shooting. I maximum zoom in on the center and rack focus, then pull back to full frame...this only works if you have very deep depth of field. OK, bracket your exposures....one dead on according to your meter, and -1 stop below and +1 stop above, yields 3 exposures...one of which will be better than the others. Shooting in camera raw, for me is the best quality image you can get out of any camera, as there are no compression artifacts, as in .jpg files.

OK...load them into Photoshop, look at them in camera raw, which has extremely powerful control over the image. Take's some learnin' but it's worth it...as you can set up some presets and just apply them...like a little sharpening...maybe 25.

While in camera raw click the link on the bottom of the frame, and select the editing parameters to edit as a .psd. For what we do at FAA 8bit is fine...16bit is essentially wasted on g'clee printing, and only doubles the file size...

In a perfect world 16bit is usually preferable over 8bit from a pure image processing perspective, I've done some experimenting with a local g'clee printer, and while a sharp, discerning eye of a trained professional can detect the subtle nuances in color etc, my guess is that 95% of our clients could not discern the difference. I have put the same print, side by side, starting with the native image, and working completely in 16bit versus working the other in 8bit from the camera raw image, and frankly without strong magnification, and knowing what you're looking for, well...it's pretty difficult see the difference...especially when printing on canvas which is my main surface for distribution.

16bit vs 8bit:

Because of the inherent limitations of G'clee printing as print device when printing on canvas, I have come to the conclusion that the attendant hardware/software overhead associated with working in 16bit, for me at least, is not a good benefit ratio...the processing time while rendering corrections/effects/filters in 16bit can be quite long and daunting, unless you've got multiple processors(4) and over 4GB of ram etc. So in the end, it does become an issue of time invested benefit ratio. That said, there are occasions when I do work in 16bit but it is totally dependent on the intrinsic complexity of the native image, (i.e. fine line work with complementary colors converging etc, or highly nuanced gradations) the end use application, again the print surface and size of print.


Rez:

I always use 240ppi. So I crop it, then I only use adjustment layers to correct luminance(brightness), chrominance(color saturation) and color balance(white balance) as smart layers, so I can turn them on/off and play "what if" and with smart layers you can always undo, even after you have closed and reopened the image. BTW, make sure your monitor is not way out of phase...you can download from adobe a protocol to calibrate your monitor pretty close to neutral. An when I save, I always leave the native image in tact, as a "save as", incorporating the original image naming convention into the more intuitive save as name, which allows me to always x-reference when looking/for images in Adobe Bridge.

Action!:

OK...you're almost there...'Save as' to a .jpg with maximum quality of 12...and voila...you're in business. I incorporate the horizontal rez by vertical rez by ppi into the file name so I know immediately what I'm dealing with reviewing hundreds of images in the OS.
(i.e. mypic_4500x2700x240_IMG_28890.jpg) saved to the FAA_UPLOAD folder. With a little extra effort in creating a shooting environment, it will go really quickly...also, I use an easel to mount the paintings...one with adjustable lean forward and backwards, which can help deal with flashing and glare..but be careful here...you DO NOT want to object stray too far from absolute vertical, as it will introduce perspective convergence in the cropping process...perhaps losing valuable image. If you cannot remove the glare, perhaps consider using a matte clear finish(Breathing Color is excellent and affords UV protection) to knock down the gloss/glare. I wouldn't use a polarizing filter only as a last resort, unless you have plenty of light, because of the light loss... Good Luck...let me know how you're getting along. On the issue of color space, I think Adobe RGB(1998) for your application is fine, as it has a wider gamut then sRGB...

You can always proof the color space by hitting Ctrl+Y once you set up the proofing color profiles in PS...

BTW, I shoot using the Canon EOS Utility software that ships with camera. It interfaces with my laptop via USB 2,0 using USB cable that shipped with the camera, and by putting the camera in "live mode" I can completely control all elements of the camera including, aperture, white balance and focus remotely...and when I select a portion of the image to zoom in digitally, I can see the threads of the canvas and focus to that....so the image is viewed on my 15" monitor instead of 2.5x.2.5 LCD.

Also, I might add, the camera is triggered from the computer with a mouse click, so there is no inadvertent movement of the camera as when triggering the shutter on the camera, which can cause very subtle camera motion blur.

Hope some of this makes sense and is of some help...obviously, the more faithful and higher the quality of the image to the original, the better the quality of print.

Best, ~mak

 

Btw...if you have Photoshop CS3+ you can stitch several images together seamlessly into a panorama. File>Automate>Photomerge...extremely powerful.

For example, if you have a very large native artwork, and a DSLR with, say, a horizontal rez of 4500p and a vertical rez of 2500p, by either rotating the camera or the artwork 90 degrees, you can increase the vertical resolution from 2500p to 4500p.

Take three overlapping images using a tripod at the exact same height with maybe a 20% overlap....then stitch together with PS...this effectively increases the resolution of your camera to about 5000p horiz by 4500p vertical...with less overlap you can get it up to close to 6000p horz. by 4500p vert...about the same as the high-end Canon 5D MKII...of course the quality will still be slightly inferior because of the quality of the CCD etc...but none the less, you've effectively increased the resolution of your camera...

I frequently use PS Panorama stitching for large images...I've created an L-bracket on my tripod so I can shoot either in portrait or landscape aspect....without having to turn the picture on the easel which sometimes is impossible due to the extreme length/height. This also enables me to orient maximum horiz. rez aspect so that when I shoot panorama landscape, I've got essentially maximum (4500ppi) vert. rez of the camera....

 

Angelina Vick

3 Years Ago

Thank you for pointing how to do that Michael...I am learning the program and that is an awesome feature.

If you were willing to take the time to do it... a photoshop tutorial thread to explain specific things like that would be awesome.

 

Sure Ang...PS Help ( F1 ) is extremely powerful...if you do a keyword search like "photomerge" you'll get some links to tutorial video on adobe.com...and to the user forum etc....very comprehensive. This BTW, is a good way to learn the many complexities in general of this powerful program...let me know how you're doing...

To wit, photomerge: www.adobe.com/go/vid0013

~mak

 

Angelina Vick

3 Years Ago

I had CS2 and I was by no means proficient...I was just exploring and learning. Now I have CS5 and an 800+page manual on how to use it.

I didn't even know about the photomerge capability. I will have to take some shots to test it out...=)

 

Charles Peck

3 Years Ago

Murray, thanks for this thread ... maybe I will even be able to make a decent enough to shot of my work one day to bother uploading to this site again.

 

Phylicia Wolf

3 Years Ago

Great thread! Thanks Murray and Michael! You guys rock!

 

Laurette Escobar

3 Years Ago

niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!!!


thanks for the low down!

 

Chrisann Ellis

3 Years Ago

thank you... I will have to save this as I can't print right now :):) cheers

 

Angelina Vick

3 Years Ago

I'm going to save it too...and work on buying some of these things. The only thing I have is the tripod....and I don't like using it because it feels so limiting. Sounds like I need to get used to it.

 

Zeana Romanovna

3 Years Ago

This might help some of you as well.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

 

Regina Valluzzi

3 Years Ago

I think you've just firmed up my resolve to seek out a professional photographer friend and work out a trade.

 

>Angelina

I had CS2 and I was by no means proficient...I was just exploring and learning. Now I have CS5 and an 800+page manual on how to use it.

I didn't even know about the photomerge capability. I will have to take some shots to test it out...=)


BTW...I'm assuming that you have the .pdf version of the 800pp manual...if not, it can be downloaded at adobe.com..should be on the installation disk or the downloaded unpacked version...

I've got 5 different adobe products, including PS, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Flash et$ et$ et$...all of which I use the .pdf version of the manual ONLY...as it is keyword searchable with Adobe Reader...very powerful...cuts right to the chase...leave it open on your desktop so you can resort to it easily and often...

With Adobe Acrobat you can highlight, bookmark and annotate etc. so you can go right to those portions you use often...

Here's the video tutorial page...very comprehensive......http://tv.adobe.com/product/photoshop/

http://www.photoshopsupport.com/photoshop-blog/10/cs5-05/adobe-photoshop-cs5-help-files-manual-pdf.html

http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/photoshop/Adobe_Photoshop_Resources.htm


 

Angelina Vick

3 Years Ago

Ya I have the pdf file. It's trying to kill me...=P

I'm just trying to learn...it's hard not to beat myself up and feel stupid because it is a VERY slow going process.

 

>Angelina...

Don't be too hard on yourself...EVERYONE has to pay their dues with PS...once you develop a work flow, you'll get into a groove...you don't need to master all the stuff about PS to turn out good imagery for FAA...just those parts that you'll use often in your art imagery...but it will pay huge dividends in the quality of the imagery of your prints.

BTW...you'll end up with some very large files...until FAA increases the max. file size to over 25MB....50MB is a good start...are ya listenin' Bethie:)...then you'll probably want to save to max. quality .jpg instead of uncompressed .png

Take a look at the videos on the video tutorial page listed above...might want to start at the beginning:)....it will flatten out the learning curve...

 

Tex Norman

3 Years Ago

I'm not a photographer and I am not well off. To get photos of my work that will make good prints for this site I pay someone $25 per photo. I could post more work if I could photo my stuff myself, but the stuff I read scares me. I only have a point and shoot camera. I see a camera I could probably afford Olympus T-100 12 MP Digital Camera (Black) Does the 12 MP mean it is 12 megapixels? Is that enough to make a passable picture for print purposes? Do I have to have photo shop? I see the cost of photo shop seems high to me, and I would need a class or something to be able to use it. Does anyone have just a camera similar to the Olympus T-100 12 MP Digital Camera and just shoot the best you can, use the photo fix stuff that you get on MS and have work that can be sold as prints?

 

Kevin Sherf

3 Years Ago

Best practical thread I've seen on FAA,Bravo Murray and MAK,

Ang also try merge to HDR(use a tripod and AEB)in your camera menu.

Tip to ANg

 

Hi Tex...feel your pain...a few observations...

Camera:

A point and shot camera CAN suffice...But...it's kinda like trying to build a house using a hand saw instead of a power saw...it can be done, but the quality of the outcome will be inferior...not to mention the time...so in the long run, you'll probably want to upgrade to at least a 12MP DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflexive) camera with a CCD(Charged Coupled Device) of at least 2/3 of a full frame...a full frame being 35mm (wide). All of the high end DSLRs are full frame..which is essentially equivalent to a 35mm film camera in rez...but you pay a very high premium for it...and in my opinion, for FAA image work, is nice, but not necessary...

That said...no reason to run out and buy a brand new DSLR for $500-600. There are many photophiles ugrading their cameras to the new and sexy DSLR camera every day...so you might want to consider picking up a prior owned DSLR...expect to pay about 50% of original purchase price...if you buy it from a retailer you'll pay a little more than from a private party, but you should get a warranty with it...

I shoot with Canon Xsi...only 12MP...nothing special...with the lens that it ships with...a utility zoom lens, wide angle to zoom, with auto focus and image stabilization...

The 12MP(Mega Pixel) number is the product of the Horizontal rez times the Vertical rez...or about 4500p wide by 2600 high. This just happens to translate to about an image of 12MB (Mega Bytes) when shot in uncompressed camera raw...maybe 30 to 50% of that if shot in .jpg. As Murray has indicated, every camera lens has a sweet spot...probably someplace in the mid range of the zoom on the the above camera...

So remember all these DSLRs have settings that allow for variable quality. You want to shoot at the highest rez available, and the highest quality of .jpg(compression)...and if you can shoot in camera raw mode which is uncompressed, do so...you can put lipstick on a .jpeg but it's still a .jpeg :)

Image Processsing:

Because I started using Photoshop almost 10 years ago, I've stayed with it...it is the gold-standard in image processing used by the pros. But if you have Windows OS or MAC or Linux, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source (Free) program that will do everything you need to prepare your images for FAA. It's extremely powerful...and the price is right...again FREE is a hard price to beat...I've used GIMP for years on my other computers like my laptop in the field as Photoshop only allows licensing on limited number of installs etc...sigh...

Copy and paste:

http://graphics.populardownloads.com/gimp/index.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpa&utm_campaign=graphics-gimp&gclid=CLzwptj4mKQCFQEPbAod8RH_EA

There also some other image processing prgs located there...

There are plenty of user groups for these open source programs...it has been my experience that everyone has to start somewhere and the users are usually very generous with advice etc...

Once you get into, it you'll develop a workflow...and it will eventually go smoothly...after a while, you'll wonder why you didnt do it sooner, instead of paying $25 a pop...take a look at Murray's very thoughtful and helpful initial posting...read it over several times...he's a pro, and he's tried to simplfy the process...but be advised that there is a committment required to learn this stuff...there are many vid tutorials online that you can google up...it's a good place to start....

OK...Good luck...hope some of this made sense...

~mak



 

Vivian ANDERSON

3 Years Ago

Mak, hi there, and, is there any chance you'll be in Sydney in my lifetime, huh? Just need a few minutes of your time, 'y'know, quick click and yer done...won't take long...then a nice Aussie BBQ/ Surf and Turf....any chance????
Murray: coming out my way? Same offer applies.
You, too Kevin....
Bring a partner, stay a while,
Do it for me, make my portfolio,make my day, please, pretty please!!!
It's only a 24hr++ flight...one way....You could stop in LA or go over the Pole to Singapore...takes yer choice, genlemen.....

 

>Viv

You're on:) BTW...What's playin' at the Sid Op House? A little Tosca might set the proper mood. So put a few EXTRA shrimps on the barbie...:)

 

Vivian ANDERSON

3 Years Ago

Welcome, friend...pls.bring tripod, lol. We'll see Rigoletto on Oct12: not opening night: no tux required...gee, thanks, hope you have a lovely ride.

 

BTW...when I travel for photo biz...I always take a small entourage...you guessed it...a Focus Group:)...but it's usually less than 25...

 

Vivian ANDERSON

3 Years Ago

Well then, there's a nice waterfront hotel nearby, faces the opera house of course, very reasonable, +/-$450/pp/night...still coming? Lol !!

 

Sure...got no problem with $450/nite...probably could suffer through that...does that include a "complimentary continental breakfast"?..if so, I'm on my way...as soon as you send me your Visa card number:)...

 

Charles Peck

3 Years Ago

Thanks to Murray for this thread - it has done more for me than any other reading source I have found to date. It gave me the rationale to make the jump from my old point and shoot Kodak (7.2 mp) P712 to an Olympus E620 with remote cable and battery grip. This site has needed something like this since the beginning because painters, sculptors or "traditional" (what an oxymoron when applied to me !!!) visual Artists most often do not know the ins and outs of the Art of Photography... particularly the new digital realm. And this site, or all of cyberspace, absolutely requires one understand digital photography, at the very least, in a modest fashion.

Michael's offerings are not to be overlooked either......................

 

Warren Sarle

3 Years Ago

ISO is critical. If ISO has already been explained above, I apologize for missing it.

You can think of ISO as controlling how sensitive the digital sensor is to light. A low ISO setting gives you low sensitivity and high image quality. A high ISO setting gives you high sensitivity and low image quality. If your photos look noisy and splotchy, you may have used too high an ISO setting.

On most cameras that I'm familiar with, the lowest ISO setting is in the range of 50 to 200. The high end may be 800, 1600, or higher. Avoid the high end!

The lowest ISO setting will usually give you the best image quality provided you have a tripod and lots of light. But there are trade-offs. If you don't have much light, using a low ISO may require that you either use a larger aperture, which may cause the image to be blurry around the edges, or use a longer exposure, which may increase the noise in the image. The best compromise depends on which camera you are using.

If you have tried various combinations of ISO and exposure times and still get noisy, splotchy images, get some brighter lights. This is why professional studio photographers usually spend tens of thousands of dollars on lighting equipment.

 

Excellent point Warren re ISO...that's why I recommend using lots of light...2 x 250-500w halogen work lights on adjustable tripod stands...you can find them at Home Depot...they're much cheaper than studio lights...they cannot be polarized because of the heat they put out, but you can knock down the wattage and the sharpness of the light by placing a piece of frosted glass(spray paint with 100% white paint) in front...or draping a piece of translucent vizqeen between the lights and the subject.

If you're handy and you can build a light array, say 3 x 60w with energy efficient neutral fluorescents for each side, that is actually ideal, because they create less heat. emit a very soft light and can be fitted with a polarizing "gel" which when used in conjunction with a polarizing filter on the camera will reduce/eliminate any glare/flashing and provide a "richness" and depth of color.

Remember...you can always move the light source further away, stop down (higher f-stop) the camera if the light is a little too strong...and/or increase the shutter speed...but there is nothing that can overcome the noise/graininess from shooting in low light with a high ISO...100 is best ...as Warren says, 200 is OK but is a compromise...but if your camera tells you it need to shoot over 200 ISO, when you're at or below F-8, and/or at or below 1/60sec, then you probably don't have enough light. And bracketing your exposure with 3 settings, will give the best results...again, one dead on, -1 F-stop and +1 F-stop at a minimum...you can always delete the unnecessary images...

>Charles

A good tripod is also a must for copy work...a sturdy one with strong legs, that's very stable that allows for the head/camera to be rotated 90 degrees...good luck...let me know how your doin'.

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

Michael, with all due respect, I started this thread to provide a simple method which will enable most non-photographer artists to shot POD-ready images without having to learn many of the technical details of photography. I'm afraid that you've repeatedly delved into details that are beyond the understanding and capability of the photographically challenged. Several have already asked me what the hell you're talking about. ;-)

Can we try to keep it simple?

 

...TMI 'repeatedly' eh?:)

Sorry Murray, it's your thread:)...anyone who'd like a further explanation of my posts, you can email ME privately...

 

Liza Faucher

3 Years Ago

Murray, you, I am sure are not minimizing the importance of low iso, to eliminate grainy images. Low iso is simple, uncomplicated and basic.

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

Absolutely not, Liza. I was working under the assumption that, with adequate light on the subject, most cameras that default to Auto ISO would choose a low enough setting. I was also assuming that people wouldn't arbitrarily be using high ISOs. The exposure bracketing that I suggested would also minimize any ISO effects.

My recent comment to Michael was directed more at his reference to things like polarizing filters, 500 watt halogen lights (way too hot for working in confined spaces and at close working distances), or the reality of the typical artist interfacing his or her camera with their computer so that they can trigger the exposure from a laptop.

I was trying to keep things simple and nontechnical, but it's comments like the following which were causing confusion:

"Because of the inherent limitations of G'clee printing as print device when printing on canvas, I have come to the conclusion that the attendant hardware/software overhead associated with working in 16bit, for me at least, is not a good benefit ratio...the processing time while rendering corrections/effects/filters in 16bit can be quite long and daunting, unless you've got multiple processors(4) and over 4GB of ram etc. So in the end, it does become an issue of time invested benefit ratio. That said, there are occasions when I do work in 16bit but it is totally dependent on the intrinsic complexity of the native image, (i.e. fine line work with complementary colors converging etc, or highly nuanced gradations) the end use application, again the print surface and size of print."

My target audience would have little understanding of (or use for, I believe) things like using "adjustment layers to correct luminance(brightness), chrominance(color saturation) and color balance(white balance) as smart layers, so I can turn them on/off and play "what if" and with smart layers you can always undo, even after you have closed and reopened the image. BTW, make sure your monitor is not way out of phase..."

The whole purpose of my thread was because so many artists are (apparently) thoroughly nontechnical when it comes to photography. Judging by the numerous prior posts on the topic, questions I've received by email, the prevailing confusion level and lack of understanding of how to create "POD worthy" images, I wanted to offer a source of readily understandable information that would work 100% of the time, without creating undue confusion. Apparently I succeeded, because Beth immediately added it to the FAQ list.

I'm not trying to minimize peoples' knowledge, but the concepts I've quoted above are way over the head of many photographic hobbyists, not to mention artists whose only association with photography has been the struggle to produce copies of their artwork which are of salable quality.

Finally, I didn't want to offend anyone, especially Michael; but did believe that his initial post could foster much of the same confusion that already existed here, and did little to help those for whom I created this thread.

 

Kevin Sherf

3 Years Ago

I just use my disposable camera from Walmart,if their good enough for ansel adams then their good enough for me.

 

Liza Faucher

3 Years Ago

meant no offense Murray. Your posts have been really helpful.

 

Vibrant Art

3 Years Ago

very helpful post , i was facing this problem quite while , since i started posting my work on net

 

Hey Murray...so...I take it that there are some here, who may not find "adjustment layers" a riveting topic?:) I'm shocked!

OK...again....got it.....but at the risk of becoming a "repeat offender"...I think you may be "misunderestimating":) the appetite and capacity for technical information on this topic for some of the folks reading this thread....there may be some artists in FAA to whom ignorance is not bliss...but merely ignorance...and as such causes more confusion...but again, your thread...

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

No offense taken, Liza. Thanks.

Yes, Kev. It's well documented that Ansel Adams had his film processed at Safeway. ;-)

I'm glad I was able to help, Smita.

Michael, I'm sure that there are many who are eager to delve into the intricacies of photography and post-processing. (I lecture on those topics, occasionally). And feel free to start your own threads on such topics (as if you need my permission); but my initial post was intended for a different crowd, those who were struggling to get images of good enough quality to make some sales on FAA. In fact, prior to my thread, the subject really got heated up because there was apparently a rash of canceled orders and requests for new image uploads due to unsatisfactory artwork copying techniques and low image quality.

 

So should I ditch attempts with my Canon Powershot sd1300 is and swith to my Canon EOS Rebel Ti? Which requires film and processing of said film????

 

Dennis Kirby

3 Years Ago

Even in the age of "the Google" it's taken me hours of searching to find an acceptable answer to this question. I found a couple of posts here and there, but none with the level of detail you have provided. Then, I joined FAA and stumbled onto your post.

Thank you Murray Bloom!

 

Angelina Vick

3 Years Ago


I just reread this thread, I never saw your suggestion to shoot HDR Kevin, I don't have an slr.

All depends, Vrinda, does your Powershot produce large enough images for your liking?

I agree, he is a smart man Dennis.

 

Andrey Soldatenko

3 Years Ago

Hello, need a hint of professionals. How to Photograph the work done in tempera? I can not get an adequate dark-blue, and red is too bright and sheeny. Manipulation in different programs does not solve the problem. If a particular way of photographing tempera does not exist, then I buy a scanner and will scan. But first, I decided to ask, method exists? I would be grateful for the tips, share experiences.

 

John Buxton

3 Years Ago

Andrey, a couple of questions.

What lighting are you using and do you shoot RAW or jpg?.

What's wrong with the dark-blue?



 

Warren Sarle

3 Years Ago

The fact is that photographing paintings well cannot be done simply or cheaply. If your paintings are not huge, it will be easier and cheaper to use a good flatbed scanner. A medium-sized painting can be scanned in sections, and the sections can be combined into a single image using Photoshop or any of various programs for stitching panoramas.

If you are going to use a camera, HDR is an unnecessary complication. Paintings do not have a brightness range that exceeds the capabilities of a low-end DSLR. If your shadows are too noisy, you need more light.

If your colors don't look right, first calibrate your monitor (which requires calibration hardware) and your camera (which can be done fairly easily with a ColorChecker and Adobe Camera Raw). When you take photos, use the ColorChecker or a good gray card to set white balance.

If you have trouble with deep blues, use daylight balanced lights, not tungsten lights. If you must use tungsten or halogen lights, use a high wattage and a bluish color correction filter such as an 80A. Or try late morning or early afternoon sunlight, possibly with a white diffuser.

Some purples do not reproduce well with any of my Sony, Kodak, or Nikon cameras.

 

Kip DeVore

3 Years Ago

I seem to be having those Charlie Brown moments lately.

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

You're welcome Dennis. Welcome to the photography thread.

Andrey, if the camera is properly adjusted to the light source, you should get faithful color. However, there are a lot of ways it can go wrong. The most common would be your camera's white balance adjustment. I'd shoot indoors with lamps and use your camera's custom white balance feature, assuming it has one. Check your manual and follow the instructions. HERE'S a thread I started on shooting your art. Take a look at the first post. If you follow that plan, your images should be very close to ideal.

Warren is right. HDR should not enter the picture when copying art. There's no reason for it. Right again that absolutely prefect color rendition is often more theoretical than practical. However, when properly used, most good cameras will get reasonable close; and probably even closer than we usually need them to be. Final tweaks can always be made in an image editor such as Photoshop.

 

Mary Angelini

3 Years Ago

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get my Nikon D90 to stop over modulating (for want of a better term) my reds yellows and oranges?? Just about everytime I shoot a red, orange or yellow flower, the pixels are always super blown out - it is not a function overexposure because I have metered for the subject and generally the image looks perfect were it not for the glowing red/orange/yellow. Someone told me this is a function of the Nikon sensor - is this true? What can I do about it (if anytihng)?

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

I've never seen that before, Mary. I assume your camera settings are all neutral. It's not unusual for individual colors to blow out under the right conditions, but if it's happening consistently, it could indicate a camera problem. Can you show an example?

 

Kavita Sarawgi

3 Years Ago

I donot have a tripod or something neither i am a professional photographer wid high end camera.i have a 12megapixel canon power shot digital camera .so can anyone tell me is that not enough to photogragh your work.I have photoshop cs2 . will this effect my artwork.

 

Warren Sarle

3 Years Ago

Mary, the default settings for many cameras are not neutral but produce over-saturated results that can easily blow out a channel if the subject is highly saturated to begin with, like a bright red flower. It happens with Nikons and Canons and other brands.

Two solutions: reduce the saturation or use a larger color space, such as Adobe RGB or Prophoto RGB. If you are shooting in RAW format, you can easily make these adjustments as needed during post processing. If you are shooting in JPEG format, you will need to find the settings in the camera's menus.

 

Kathy Flugrath Hicks

3 Years Ago

I down loaded Gimp and am a little confused. It defaults to 72 dpi. What should I change the setting to for good looking large prints?

 

Warren Sarle

3 Years Ago

The dpi (technically ppi, pixels per inch) setting is irrelevant. Ignore it. This has been discussed in several threads.

 

Kathy Flugrath Hicks

3 Years Ago

Thanks Warren, I"ll be happy to ignore it.

 

Betty Pieper

3 Years Ago

Murray,
Thank you - and your contributors - so much. Now I can see why FAA directed me to the discussions.
I sold a print recently and found that the image I thought was fine was NOT. That got me thinking that
since I can't tell ahead which is what one or what one is who as Dr. Seuss would say, I better think
about re-doing ALL 100 images.
Being one of those nontechy types you describe. I thought I did some homework online
but came here confused. I was definitely prepared to get a point and shoot and do my
paintings outdoors. I'm glad I read this first and will spend some time with it soon before I buy a
camera and set about my task.
Betty

 

Murray Bloom

3 Years Ago

Welcome, Betty. I took a look at your paintings and found two predominant problems with the photos you took of them. First, the images have very small pixel dimensions, which means that they can't be printed very large. The only cure for this is a camera with more pixels, on the order of ten megapixels or better.

The other issue is reflected glare, which is caused by the angle in which the light strikes the painting. Some people prefer to shoot their art outdoors, which can alleviate this problem but also cause issues with color fidelity.

 

Betty Pieper

3 Years Ago

Thanks, Murray. You went the extra mile! I re-read your post this monring and I'm still not quite sure about that
white balance trick, but I don't need it for now. I've printed it all out and want to let it simmer for awhile.
By September I hope to have decided about a camera and price and then will hopefully commit to
the learning needed.
For the glare I think I'll just have 3-4 redone soon by a professional (public pride) and
let the others go for the time being...all the ones with small pixel dimensions but not horrendous glare
..unless I get a sale again and then I'd have to hustle.
I think I would be proud if I could do the work myself correctly .
A lot of my paintings look like they are pastels...do you think it is the glare or is that part of
the color fidelity problem?
This thread will be my support an reference as I learn.
Again, danke!

 

Murray Bloom

2 Years Ago

This one has been inactive for the past couple of months. I figured I'd give it a bump in the event that anyone wants to chime in.

EDIT: OOPS! This isn't the thread I intended to bump. My bad.

 

Jane McIlroy

2 Years Ago

This one's worth bumping too, anyway! :-)

 

Roger Protsman

2 Years Ago

Murray - I agree with Jane this thread is definitely worth a bump!!

 

Laurin Rinder

2 Years Ago

One of my sidelines for many years was doing Catalog work for major Galleries and Museums here in Los Angeles. I had to do a lot of million dollar pieces ranging from Flat art to tiny micro etchings. Based on the "KISS" principle [Keep it simple stupid] you really dont need much. We used elaborate equipment such as 8 X 10 Field cameras and such and recently 4 x 5 Digital backs. for flat art the process as Murray says is 45 degrees from the subject making a perfect triangle and camera in the middle. Just get some simple inexpensive hardware store metal reflectors with 2 250W Blue daylight balanced Photoflood Bulbs But Most Important and I don't believe was discussed is diffusion. Thats a must. There are a 100 ways to do this and the simplest is white sheets in front of the bulbs in between the fixture and the art. That will Illuminate the sheet creating a soft diffused light panel, As the rule is, the bigger the light source, the softer the light. If you don't understand WB [Which is a critical function of Digital Photography] I would go with a Daylight or cloudy -1 setting if using these bulbs which are available at any camera store. You can even use the daylight balanced Pigtails but the falloff is quite extreme. Diffusion is a must. Use your eyes as an artist to look for any hotspots and adjust and overcome. Thats why we have shutter spds.....I teach, if you can see it you can shoot it correctly. try to shoot at F11 and simply adjust Shutter. Do not shoot on auto anything. . and shoot a lot at many different settings , thats the beauty of digital and write down your settings to refer back to. Hope that helps.

 

Warren Sarle

2 Years Ago

Be sure to keep a distance of at least a foot, preferably more, between any high-temperature bulb and flammable material. You will also get better diffusion with a distance over a foor or two.

An aperture of f/11 is indeed reasonable for DSLRs and APS-C compact digital cameras. You will get some diffraction blur, but that can be fixed with the Smart Sharpen command in Photoshop. But with smaller sensors, especially those over 5 megapixels, you may get severe diffraction blur at f/11, for which reason many compact cameras don't even have apertures smaller than f/8. For small sensor cameras, try f/8 and f/5.6 and see which is sharper. Check the corners as well as the center.

 

Thanks for info :)

 

Joyce Dickens

2 Years Ago

Very useful and well written information Murray - thanks!!!!

 

This discussion is closed.