How I Photograph Art
I was asked to take a photograph of a 4th class art project; a beautiful painting. Sounds simple I know. But, how many things do you think can go wrong taking this photo? Here is a short list of what I run into photographing art, and my solutions.
The background behind the painting is a bunch of junk in your living room
Don’t try and clean the living room , , , its a lost cause, I promise.
Use a bed sheet, or as in this this case a photographic backdrop. Set the art on the floor against this backdrop. I tipped a card table on its side and draped the cloth over a ladder behind the table, and extended the bottom of the cloth beyond the bottom of the photo.
The colors in the painting don’t match the colors in the photograph
Don’t use auto color on your camera as there are too many decisions for the camera to make. I set to sunlight if I am near a window on a sunny day; this keeps the color constant and predictable. I use a color checker card in one photo, and then use that photo to correct the colors in the main photo. Almost all photography software has a color check feature where you select a white point in the photograph to set color balance.
The painting looks crooked in my photo
Keep the camera perfectly square to the painting; this is harder than it sounds. Use a tripod and a ball head and move the camera around until the painting looks straight in the viewfinder. Take some sample images. If you don’t have these items learn how to correct crooked lines in the image by reading this post.
If I don’t use flash the painting looks to dark, but if I do use flash there is a big blob reflection in the painting
Never use on camera flash, or point a flash directly at a painting; the flash will reflect off the painting. If you use flash (I did) set the flash off to one side and let the light skim across the photo at 45 degree or greater angle. Aim the flash at the ceiling of the room, and /or bounce the flash off a white surface, do not aim directly at the painting as the light will be to harsh.
I set the painting next to a large window; the outside light provides most of the light and the flash “filled in” the shadows. Do not set the painting in direct sunlight but just outside the sun light. Use a white sheet in place of the flash in the photo below to bounce window light back at the painting. Often this will be sufficient and very pleasant light.
Here is a photo of the setup:
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