Photographing Flat Art With Digital Part 2

 

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What a busy week it has been! In addition to preparing material for Part 2 in this series, I have also been hard at work preparing for the next few posts. I can assure you, there will be some photographic awesomeness coming your way!

So lets get to the task at hand. In Part 1 we examined some lighting options, and briefly discussed the camera end of things. In part two we will discuss the process of photographing (your) flat artwork. I’ll assume at this point that you have some sort of two light rig, and a digital slr. (the following is valid for film shooters as well, but those capturing digitally will get the most out of this how to) There are a a few things that you will want to have on hand as well as they will make capture and post processing a lot easier.

1. A relatively steady tripod.

2. If your tripod  head lacks a bubble level, you will want a shoe mount bubble level to level the camera.

3. A contractors box level also comes in handy if you are photographing art work hanging on  the wall.

4. A gray card, or Xrite Color Checker. I recommend the later because it is a chart comprised of known color values, and neutral grays. Very handy in post.

5. Depending on the camera you are using, a focusing grid screen will help you to keep your vertical and horizontal lines parallel. Most Nikon digital slr’s have a mode that will display a grid in the viewfinder or lcd display.

6. A hand held light meter. Not essential, but does save time when setting up your lights.

 

We will begin by positioning the artwork and camera.  the  Its really important to position your artwork as flat as possible to the lens plane. If it is leaning to far forward or backwards your vertical lines will converge or diverge, instead of being parallel. If it is not possible to position the artwork in proper relation to the lens of the camera you can always correct for this by adjusting the camera until your lines are parallel in the viewfinder. I usually try to to make sure both the camera and artwork are level before photographing as this saves time in post. After you level the artwork and try to make it as perpendicular to the horizontal plane of the lens as possible, position the camera as close to the center of the image as possible. At this point  adjust the camera if necessary to compensate for any leaning your artwork may have (this is where a grid screen comes in handy, you can use it to line up you vertical and horizontal lines).  Try to fill  the viewfinder with as much of the artwork as possible. Don’t worry if you cant fill the entire viewfinder, as you probably won’t, and you can always crop later in post. One note about positioning artwork. You’ll find it best to place artwork at about chest level. This makes it easier to position the camera, and to ensure parallel lines.

We now have have our camera and artwork into position. Onto lighting.

 

diagram

Above is a very basic lighting diagram. This part is actually fairly easy. The goal is to evenly light your artwork from edge to edge, top to bottom. All of the lighting kits I suggested in Part 1 come with umbrellas. These are very basic light modifiers, but the use of will give you nice even lighting without hotspots. Refer to the above diagram and set up your lights at the same distance away from and on either side of your artwork. You will see right away the effect of the lights once you turn them on. Avoid placing the lights to high or to low in relation to the center of the art work being photographed. With some kinds of paintings, (Oils and Acrylics in particular) that have lots of relief, lights positioned to high or to low may cast undesirable shadows. You can check the evenness of your lighting with either a hand held light meter, or the cameras built in meter. Most mid-range digital slr’s have the option for spot metering. If you decide to use your camera’s meter, and your camera has a built in spot meter, use it. Meter the opposing edges and the center of your artwork, if you experience disparities in your exposure, (if one edge of your image reads f8, and the other say reads f5.6)  adjust your lights by moving one of them forward or back, left or right until the different portions of your artwork meter the same. I usually shoot at f8 or f11. These apertures maximize the full sharpness of a typical 50mm lens. It is important to meter all parts of the image to ensure that there are no hot spots. So at this point we have our lights set up, and the camera set up, now what? Before shooting, make sure the camera is set to the following:

1. The camera should bet set in manual mode, at the lowest ISO setting possible, with the appropriate aperture and corresponding shutter speed set. These settings will be determined by your meter. So if your meter says 1/30th of a second at f8, at ISO 100, thats how the camera should be set.

2. You should be shooting in RAW with your White Balance set to the light source you are using. DO NOT use Automatic White Balance. So, lets just say you are using the Lowel Tota lights. You would set your White Balance to Tungsten (the lightbulb icon), or 3200k. If you are shooting with strobes, set the White Balance to Flash, or 5200k.

3. Make sure you format your card before beginning, it’s easier to deal with images when it comes time to import them into your computer.

Lets start shooting!

Begin by placing your Gray Card or Color Checker in the scene and take a picture. It should look something like this.

white_balance-1I did this by using the self timer and holding the Color Checker in the scene. I guess it goes without question that you should double-check the viewfinder to make sure the image is in focus. If you find that your shutter speed is slow (under 1/60th of a second) use the self timer for all of your shooting. This way you won’t shake the camera and cause the image to become blurry.

You may notice that the image on the viewfinder is a little light or a little dark, or has a color cast. Don’t worry about this. I will explain how to get rid of color casts in Part 3.

As for the image looking light or dark, It will to a large degree depend on the nature of the artwork you are photographing. Remember that light meters measure for 18% gray. If your artwork has a lot of white in it, it may seem a little dark, you will likely have to adjust the shutter to let in more light. The opposite may be true for artwork with a lot of darks. Your meter readings may cause the image to appear a little bright. You would compensate by choosing a faster shutter speed. In any case you will want to take multiple images at different shutter speeds. This is called bracketing. What I want you to do is take a series of 3 – 4 images, and bracket the exposure starting with an image that is slightly under-exposed and ending with an image that is slightly over-exposed. You can accomplish this by changing the shutter speed as you move along. This is important for a technique I will show you in Part 3, and it will also give you a variety of exposures to choose from later depending on how you proceed with processing your images. Consider the following, and I will join you soon for Part 3!

 

Watercolor shot with Canon 1DS Mark 3 and 85mm f.18 l series.White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/40th of a second @ f8. ISO 100

Watercolor shot with Canon 1DS Mark 3 and 85mm f.18 l series.White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/40th of a second @ f8. ISO 100

 

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/20th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/20th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

 

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/10th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/10th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/6th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

Watercolor shot with Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and 85mm 1.8 l series lens. White Balance set to Tungsten. 1/6th of a second @ f8. ISO 100.

Lighting used was provided by Lowel. (2) Lowel Rifa-Lite EX66.

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4 thoughts on “Photographing Flat Art With Digital Part 2

  1. Pingback: Photographing Flat Art With Digital Part 3 « Adventures in Digital & Analogue Imaging

  2. Pingback: Reproducciones de Cuadros – Recolección de datos « MIRAR Y VER PHOTO

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