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Author Topic: photographing paintings that have thick paint  (Read 2976 times)

LowBloodSugar

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photographing paintings that have thick paint
« on: April 21, 2013, 11:14:06 PM »
I just moved this thread, because i had previously posted it in the wrong forum.

I am trying to build the ultimate setup for photographing a collection of art.  Mostly large oil paintings (3feet x 4feet +/-)  with significant impasto (thickly applied paint that has depth and 3D shape).  There is also hand painted dinner and dessert plates that are glossy.

After much research and trail runs my list of goals are as follows:

1) Maximize sharpness
2) Maximize contrast
3) Maximize resolution
4) minimize vignetting
5) minimize distortion
6) minimize chromatic aberration
7) minimize out of focus fringing
8 ) minimize camera shake AND camera vibration
9) minimize glare,
10) reproduce accurate color
11) maximize uniformity

unknowns:
what is the best angles to put lights so that the paintings self shadowing looks the best (45, 45 copy table style is often recomended, but i think it produces unnatural looking shadows on the paint structure)
should lights be large or small ( soft shadows or sharp shadows )


so far this is the setup that I am thinking will produce the best results:

CAMERA: Canon 5DMK3 (currently owned) on a sturdy tripod or copy table
Set to mirror lockup and shooting raw

Lens:  I have been using a Canon 50mm MK2 1.8 lens with great results but I am considering upgrading to   100mm 2.8L macro IS, or 100mm 2.8 macro, or 135mm 2.8L.  Obviously in this situation a "flat field" prime lens will produce the best results.  I am expecting something like a 5.6 or so aperture will be the best.

Color treatment: xrite color checker passport <- for color calibration (highly recommended).  Use color calibration to get color correct, and don't do any other tweaks.

LIGHTING:
Currently this is the most nagging question for me.  i am using lowelpro continuous lights which have a high color rendering index.  I am experimenting with one or two set with a diffusion umbrella at about 45 degrees.  And one or two lights without diffusion to produce sharper soft shadowing.  But im worried that the shutter speed is just too long and also it produces uneven lighting and camera vibration is still present even on a tripod.  I am thinking that possibly i could switch to using strobes witch would reduce vibration.   I am also considering the wesscot grid flash modifier for creating highly directional and uniform lighting or moving the strobes very far away and not using any modifiers.

ALSO, i am wondering if i should be shooting in a black room or white room.

I am also doing what I can to reduce flare by looking at the histogram and goboing the lights just to make sure i am not getting any issues from off frame lights spilling into the lens.

Do any of the canon rumor members have any advice or experience to share for photographing paintings that have thick paint?
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photographing paintings that have thick paint
« on: April 21, 2013, 11:14:06 PM »

pwp

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 10:33:39 PM »
I shoot a lot of art for a number of clients, galleries & artists. If the works can be described as having dark, glossy, heavy impasto surfaces, I quote at least twice as much as I would for completely flat work. It's a bitch.

For works up to a couple of meters on the long side, I use two Einsteins with the standard 8 inch reflector, with polarizing gels on the lights. The lights are set back 3-5 meters at 45 degrees to the work, just like on a copy-stand. I also have a polarizing filter on the lens. Shoot tethered so you can have a very clear look at what you're doing. Even a very small adjustment to the light alters the result. It's very important that both lights and modifiers are 100% identical. Make sure you can work in a BIG space.

If there are multiple works, set up an easel and bring the works to your setup. If you move your setup for each work it will take you weeks to do what you can do in a day.

If there are still blown highlights/catchlights in the dark impasto areas, they can be fixed in post in a variety of ways. On an adjustment layer you can hit "dust & scratches" and/or "despeckle" and brush in the trouble spots through a layer mask. Or you can use the color range tool to select the blown areas, feather a tiny bit and literally paint them in. Or a combination of all these things. Remember to just reduce the blown areas till it looks good, not kill them completely or you take away the fact that it is a heavy impasto work. It's a tightrope.

Color? Get yourself an X-Rite color Checker Passport and use as directed. Trust the numbers more than what you perceive. If the works are framed, watch out for shadows thrown on the work by a deep frame.

Dark, glossy, heavy impasto paintings are the hardest of all. Good luck. If the work is important, and you feel it is beyond you at your current skill level, it may be best to pass on the job, skill up and start pitching to prospective clients again later. It's an area that looks simple but is full of traps for the unwary and inexperienced.

-PW



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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 11:29:05 PM »
I shoot a lot of art for a number of clients, galleries & artists. If the works can be described as having dark, glossy, heavy impasto surfaces, I quote at least twice as much as I would for completely flat work. It's a bitch.


Dark, glossy, heavy impasto paintings are the hardest of all. Good luck. If the work is important, and you feel it is beyond you at your current skill level, it may be best to pass on the job, skill up and start pitching to prospective clients again later. It's an area that looks simple but is full of traps for the unwary and inexperienced.

-PW

+1
 
No insult intended to the OP, but a ULTIMATE SETUP  is going to involve expensive lighting, medium or large format cameras, and a lot of skill.  A lot of skill.  Skill is the difficult part.
 
Perhaps you might hire a photographer who is experienced in this type of work, and then take notes.  After that, a lot of hard practice and lots of $$$ later, you will be ready.
 
 

LowBloodSugar

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2013, 06:55:43 PM »
Thank you for your thoughtful response.  I am excited to try your suggestions.

My shots from before were coming in with significant glare.   The polarization filter that you suggest will minimize that.  I was using an umbrella diffuser to help get even illumination, but that will have to be removed because the umbrella diffuser will "mix up" the polarized light from the flashes and turn it into unpolarized light.

I have been using the "X-Rite color Checker Passport" and that is producing great results and it is straightforward to use (as long as you are operating in a controlled laboratory like manner).

Thanks again.


I shoot a lot of art for a number of clients, galleries & artists. If the works can be described as having dark, glossy, heavy impasto surfaces, I quote at least twice as much as I would for completely flat work. It's a bitch.

For works up to a couple of meters on the long side, I use two Einsteins with the standard 8 inch reflector, with polarizing gels on the lights. The lights are set back 3-5 meters at 45 degrees to the work, just like on a copy-stand. I also have a polarizing filter on the lens. Shoot tethered so you can have a very clear look at what you're doing. Even a very small adjustment to the light alters the result. It's very important that both lights and modifiers are 100% identical. Make sure you can work in a BIG space.

If there are multiple works, set up an easel and bring the works to your setup. If you move your setup for each work it will take you weeks to do what you can do in a day.

If there are still blown highlights/catchlights in the dark impasto areas, they can be fixed in post in a variety of ways. On an adjustment layer you can hit "dust & scratches" and/or "despeckle" and brush in the trouble spots through a layer mask. Or you can use the color range tool to select the blown areas, feather a tiny bit and literally paint them in. Or a combination of all these things. Remember to just reduce the blown areas till it looks good, not kill them completely or you take away the fact that it is a heavy impasto work. It's a tightrope.

Color? Get yourself an X-Rite color Checker Passport and use as directed. Trust the numbers more than what you perceive. If the works are framed, watch out for shadows thrown on the work by a deep frame.

Dark, glossy, heavy impasto paintings are the hardest of all. Good luck. If the work is important, and you feel it is beyond you at your current skill level, it may be best to pass on the job, skill up and start pitching to prospective clients again later. It's an area that looks simple but is full of traps for the unwary and inexperienced.

-PW
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LowBloodSugar

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2013, 06:06:56 PM »
Back from having done the shoot using a cross-polarizing setup. 

I ended up renting the canon 100mm 2.8L IS macro and using 50mm 1.8 as a backup when I couldn't fit everything in the frame.  I tried to use the rosco brand polarizing film for the lens and it just was too blurry(produced perceptible glare).  I switched to getting an fancy b&h circular polarizer and that was much better.

I used two youngou flashes at full power with rosco brand polarizers at 45 triggered by an on camera set at lowest power (with polarizer).  Studio flashes would have been better, but this was still good.  The polarizers started to loose effectiveness part-way through the shoot and had to be replaced.  Full power flashes damaged them.  I made a spacer so they would be a little cooler and they didn't need replacement after that.

Most of the large paintings were taken on the wall with a black backdrop gaffered taped to the wall.   

Keeping the camera lined up squarely with the art was actually very tedious and I am looking for ideas on how to do it better.  I wish the world had a "snap to grid" checkbox!

Small paintings were taken on a camera copy-table.  That was easier to use than the wall because the pictures stayed centered and square.

Minimal post processing needed other than XRite color checker passport calibration workflow.   I was unsure on which controls to use for brightening photos some of the darker photos.  With the artist we agreed on what the proper exposure should be for some of the darker images, but was very happy with all of the photos.

Thanks again pwp.

Clement
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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2013, 07:32:59 PM »
I have been using the ColorPassport for a few years now for artist reproductions, mostly pottery. I have found the free Adobe DNG Profile Editor to be a much better camera profile creator than the X-Rite software.
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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2013, 08:57:51 PM »
For large artwork an H-frame easle is indespensable. Got mine for just over 100.00 but you can certainly spend up to 1000.00 or more for a heavy duty one. Sandbags to secure the bottom and a level to square artwork up and you can fly through large pieces.

Shooting raw will allow you to take advantage of ACRs lens correction features to eliminate vignetting and barrel distortion so that you can really square it up. Use the crop feature with perspective on so that if the artwork was off axis you can correct that as well.

As boring as copy work may seem it does present a bunch of interesting photographic challenges to overcome
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 11:58:01 AM by agierke »
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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2013, 08:57:51 PM »

pwp

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2013, 08:56:32 AM »
Keeping the camera lined up squarely with the art was actually very tedious and I am looking for ideas on how to do it better.  I wish the world had a "snap to grid" checkbox!
It's good to get the works as close as practical to totally square-on, but getting it 100% right in camera is tedious and rarely necessary.
I find it's a great deal quicker to get it "close-enough" and do the final tweak in PS Transform with a grid as reference.
With experience you learn the right balance.

-PW

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2013, 12:15:14 PM »
You can turn on a grid display in your 5D3 that will make lining up the art in camera WAY easier.

I think you're going to have to end up using cross polarization to get anything usable with the textured art you described. I used to shoot my friend's work and most of his had a lot of 3D texture.  The problem with cross polarizing is that the complete lack of glare will turn the image into a 2D shot and you'll loose the perception of depth in the photo.  Obviously you're converting 3 dimensions into 2, but you don't want to completely kill look and feel of the original.  I would suggest you try varying levels of polarization once you have everything set up and then review them with the artist to get the look they think best represents the original art.
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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2013, 01:39:33 AM »
It was actually a problem on some of darkest paintings and some that had interesting frames.  I ended up shooting a x-polarized and a second with partial polarization for the problematic ones and blending the two.  Probably the most important thing i had was an eye-fi card sending the the raw photos to my laptop.  I had it set up so that the photos would automatically get imported into light-room and have the color profile applied on import.  I was able to catch whenever i messed up and needed an second photo very quickly.
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pwp

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2013, 08:45:35 AM »
Probably the most important thing i had was an eye-fi card sending the the raw photos to my laptop.  I had it set up so that the photos would automatically get imported into light-room and have the color profile applied on import. 
In a controlled environment where you are shooting art, why not use the speed of tethering via USB?
Eye-Fi chugs along OK with small JPEG's, but RAW transfer can only be described as glacial.

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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2013, 03:22:30 PM »
In a controlled environment where you are shooting art, why not use the speed of tethering via USB?
Eye-Fi chugs along OK with small JPEG's, but RAW transfer can only be described as glacial.
-PW

The eye-fi wasn't that bad.  I had it directly connected and set to not upload to internet services.  I was cropping the previous photos as the new ones were coming through.  Not bad, but I will try USB next time.  I imagine that the large screen live view will help.

Also by the way, the 100 2.8L IS macro focus ring is is specified at 157 degrees from 1:1 to infinity.  Which seems great, but it is geared so that at macro distances the you have better control of focus and at longer distances its super touchy...  I think next time I will try a no-macro like 100mm f2 or 135L which have more "focus throw" at the distances i would be working at.
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Re: photographing paintings that have thick paint
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2013, 03:22:30 PM »