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08-03-2018, 07:30 PM   #1
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how to take photos of paintings?

I am trying to take photos of paintings i collected trough years, most are too big and too delicate for a scanner and was wondering what would be the best way to deal with it. there nothing larger than imperial (30x22) mostly pastel and pre2war cali watercolor paintings


I was thinking about hanging these on the wall perpendicular to sunlight, take a sharp fast 35mm lens and point at the middle to get orto view of the painting and use some soft white reflectors to redirect sunlight? does this sound about the right thing to do to you guys?

here is a 1ft x 1ft pastel I took this photo with my phone so it sucks, and will have to do better.

many thanks for all of the hints in advance.

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08-03-2018, 07:44 PM - 1 Like   #2
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if you don't have lights to do copy lighting, then a slightly overcast day would be best, the clouds act as a big soft box.
08-03-2018, 09:16 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Check out this thread: Help selecting the perfect lens for copying artwork with a K-1 - PentaxForums.com

For a simple way to achieve uniform lighting, look at Achieving the most Uniform Lighting with just a few Light Bulbs - PentaxForums.com
08-03-2018, 09:22 PM - 1 Like   #4
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You will ideally want a lens without any field curvature, and low distortion. A macro lens is ideal. Use a tripod, and get your light as even as possible. The tripod will let you shoot ISO 100 in whatever light you can manage.

08-03-2018, 10:22 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by beachgardener Quote
if you don't have lights to do copy lighting, then a slightly overcast day would be best, the clouds act as a big soft box.
QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
You will ideally want a lens without any field curvature, and low distortion. A macro lens is ideal. Use a tripod, and get your light as even as possible. The tripod will let you shoot ISO 100 in whatever light you can manage.

thank you this is great, so many conclusion so fast! I think i have two macro lenses one minolta 100mm/3.5 and one vivitar 35-105/3.5 ill figure my FOV. I also have two umbrellas and two generic led lights that i bought on ebay. I rarely use my camera indoors. i dont have a crane or anything like that so just used a camera rail clamp and tightened it to an old ikea desk looks like the distance will be about right! ill lay my paintings on the floor and make a grid with red electric insulation .tape ive put a ton of cofeetable books on the desk so it doesnt shake lol. thanks again!

great. this is going to be fun!

Last edited by ddb; 08-03-2018 at 10:29 PM.
08-03-2018, 10:22 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Lighting, lighting, lighting! Paintings require different lighting depending on the painting and some can be particularly difficult in terms of controlling reflections. Lights with linear polarizers and a linear polarizer on the camera can be helpful in those cases. Others require minimal amount of special lighting. Best to take the previous advice from AstroDave and read up on photographing paintings and how to best light them.

You want a good lens with little rectilinear distortion and it should be good at close distances (some are great but not as great close up). A tripod is a must and the lens should be stopped down to its optimum aperture (but not to the point where diffraction becomes an issue). Don't use it anywhere close to wide open.

Sometimes shooting vertically works better (gravity helps keep the object matter flat and it can be changed out more conveniently). Make sure the camera is square with the object matter (put a mirror on the front of your lens and place a directed light source where the object material will be. Align the camera so the reflected light returns to the source and the front of the lens should be square with the surface (the light source should be where the center point of your object will be).

Last edited by Bob 256; 08-03-2018 at 10:31 PM.
08-03-2018, 10:56 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob 256 Quote
Lighting, lighting, lighting! Paintings require different lighting depending on the painting and some can be particularly difficult in terms of controlling reflections. Lights with linear polarizers and a linear polarizer on the camera can be helpful in those cases. Others require minimal amount of special lighting. Best to take the previous advice from AstroDave and read up on photographing paintings and how to best light them.

You want a good lens with little rectilinear distortion and it should be good at close distances (some are great but not as great close up). A tripod is a must and the lens should be stopped down to its optimum aperture (but not to the point where diffraction becomes an issue). Don't use it anywhere close to wide open.

Sometimes shooting vertically works better (gravity helps keep the object matter flat and it can be changed out more conveniently). Make sure the camera is square with the object matter (put a mirror on the front of your lens and place a directed light source where the object material will be. Align the camera so the reflected light returns to the source and the front of the lens should be square with the surface (the light source should be where the center point of your object will be).

I am making notes using astrodaves comments and links right now. ill definitely do the best with what I have, ill Dremel a hole in the middle of the desk if I have to and ill test my shots on lens test cart, I have some old flashes, some polarizing film sheets, luckily no oil paintings, no 3d strokes no rough treads just pure white paper sheets. I appreciate your help a lot!
08-04-2018, 02:50 AM   #8
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point and shoot?

QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
Astrodave your advice is great. I read your other posts as advised. i decided to leave the light for later i want to eliminate the rest of the issues first


FD 100 mm on aps-c is too far for me. most of paintings are vivid watercolor half imperial size and some 12x12 Ill need to be somewhere between 35-55. if I get too close I get a visible projection distortion (nothing that cant be batch-fixed) If move away from the object I assume ill lose some detail and that leaves me wondering between fd 35 -55 ill try daylight tomorrow and look at the pixels, maybe deal with colors and light when i fix the rest of variables


another very strange thing:

I also tried a point and shoot camera that i had in my drawer, a Nikon Coolpix s8200 and results were better than aps-c mirrorless with my sharpest primes.

here are the Nikon coolpix specs
  1. Lens

    14x optical Zoom, NIKKOR ED glass lens
  2. Lens Focal Length

    4.5-63.0mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 25-350mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
  3. Lens f/-number

    f/3.3-5.9
I have a couple of macro lenses including series 1 Vivitar 28 90 & 28 200 kobori2, some sharpest Canon Minolta and Pentax primes and that silly little Nikon point and shoot blew all my macro lenses away. maybe is the Nikon VR image stabilization ill try things tomorrow again.i just cant believe my eyes-how close to the object was able to come and still control projection distortion at the same time using nothing but a 166 led panel in my other hand

I must be doing something wrong. ill double check tomorrow.


Last edited by ddb; 08-04-2018 at 03:14 AM.
08-04-2018, 05:55 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Did I miss what body you're using?
If you have it, use pixel shift.
08-04-2018, 08:10 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Step One. Set up a color managed environment. Calibrate your monitor and shoot something along the lines of a Color Checker to set up your camera.
Step two. Use the best lens you have, preferably a macro lens.
Step three. Set up a copy stand. You can do the same thing with flashes and diffusers and a good tripod to mount the camera on. Look up copy stand and DIY copy stands they are not difficult to deal with.
Step four. Use the color checker to establish a baseline color space correction for your lighting/lens setup.
Step five. Actually use the color managed environment to set the colors to what they should be - do not trust your MK-1 eyeball, if you do it will be wrong at some point.
Step six. Save the images, preferably RAW, with a document that spells out what you did.
08-04-2018, 09:37 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ddb Quote
I am making notes using astrodaves comments and links right now. ill definitely do the best with what I have, ill Dremel a hole in the middle of the desk if I have to and ill test my shots on lens test cart, I have some old flashes, some polarizing film sheets, luckily no oil paintings, no 3d strokes no rough treads just pure white paper sheets. I appreciate your help a lot!
Another trick for getting your camera square is to put a mirror on the copy plane (where your photo will go), and adjust your camera until the center of your camera lens is exactly in the center of the frame when you focus on the reflection (that focus won't be valid for the painting however). The mirror is best if it's just the sheet of aluminized glass large enough so it lays flat on the copy surface.
08-04-2018, 08:20 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Lots of good suggestions here but one bit of advise it seems is missing. Parallax. (Just skimmed over the posts)


I don't want to say much more about lighting, most points have been covered here. Except to say if your pictures are on matte stock (watercolour) the pain of reflection is not so such a problem.


Parallax; When you shoot in a gallery you need a tilt and shift lens or a step ladder. TS lens works in a gallery step ladder not. But you shoot at home so you can control falling lines simply by hanging or standing up your pictures leaning forward to equalise falling lines. By how much you will see in the view finder or on screen if you shoot LV. Simple. That eliminates one problem and may even help setting up lighting because to some extend lighting is also responsive to the law of parallax.
08-04-2018, 09:15 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Schraubstock Quote
Lots of good suggestions here but one bit of advise it seems is missing. Parallax. (Just skimmed over the posts)


I don't want to say much more about lighting, most points have been covered here. Except to say if your pictures are on matte stock (watercolor) the pain of reflection is not so such a problem.


Parallax; When you shoot in a gallery you need a tilt and shift lens or a step ladder. TS lens works in a gallery step ladder not. But you shoot at home so you can control falling lines simply by hanging or standing up your pictures leaning forward to equalise falling lines. By how much you will see in the view finder or on screen if you shoot LV. Simple. That eliminates one problem and may even help setting up lighting because to some extend lighting is also responsive to the law of parallax.
thanks! i have no idea what parallax is but i will sure google a load tonight to understand what are saying. i put my angles as third on my priority list but if can take care of the angles why not?


watercolors are easy but pastels reflect quite a lot of light that not just create reflection per se but completely change the color composition of painting. the funny thing about this painting (that's why I picked this one) is that it looks completely different under different light angles, when the sun hits my living room it has this fresh laundry lemon tangerine shine to it, during the night it turns orangy and camo green these two examples sort of show what I mean but my presentation is far from adequate.

took this try on my backyard porch around sunset it looks completely different than cell phone-iso was set to 100. used Konica 28/3.5 because I felt it preserves colors and contrast and is sharp enough at 8, uploaded jpeg on pf but lost a lot of stroke detail and is mushier and yellower than my copy.


after sleeping over, I decided to prioritize colors and details because I can fix angles or batch correct for my lens at very low cost, ill maybe even go and try 18mm before I set the rig inside.

I have one vitrox lights with temp and level adjust I ordered two more. ill set one on horseshoe and two at 35-45 and 135-145 deg and tie them to table legs or octopus tripods fix a mirror diagonally ie perpendical to the legs, i plan to dremel a hole in the table top and use crab clamp, hand and leveler, and throw a white tarp over the rig. if it comes out better than this ill be happy.

many thanks to all of you.. i need a day or two to digest all of the comments!

---------- Post added 08-04-18 at 09:51 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by victormeldrew Quote
Did I miss what body you're using?
If you have it, use pixel shift.
yes i have sony alplha 6k and some older



i follow this dude when it comes to gear.

---------- Post added 08-04-18 at 10:09 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by PDL Quote
Step One. Set up a color managed environment. Calibrate your monitor and shoot something along the lines of a Color Checker to set up your camera.
Step two. Use the best lens you have, preferably a macro lens.
Step three. Set up a copy stand. You can do the same thing with flashes and diffusers and a good tripod to mount the camera on. Look up copy stand and DIY copy stands they are not difficult to deal with.
Step four. Use the color checker to establish a baseline color space correction for your lighting/lens setup.
Step five. Actually use the color managed environment to set the colors to what they should be - do not trust your MK-1 eyeball, if you do it will be wrong at some point.
Step six. Save the images, preferably RAW, with a document that spells out what you did.
on the money!
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Last edited by ddb; 08-04-2018 at 10:29 PM.
08-04-2018, 11:51 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ddb Quote
...the funny thing about this painting (that's why I picked this one) is that it looks completely different under different light angles, when the sun hits my living room it has this fresh laundry lemon tangerine shine to it, during the night it turns orangy and camo green...
Hi
Welcome to the frustating world of metamerism!
Metamerism simply is a phenomenon which causes colours to change when viewed under different light sources. Ambient light with their unique wavelengths reflect differently off different surfaces, paints and inks.
You pick a colour swatch from the paint store which you think would look good in your living room. You buy the paint and start painting the living room walls. As soon as you start painting you notice the colour is not right (you say, the paint is still wet, it'll come good.) But no, the light grey you originally selected now looks much darker and a bit greenish. You turn the light on and now it looks different again. You are experiencing metamerism.

Epson had a big problem some year ago, their pigment ink was very badly affected my the Metamerism phenomenon. Under different electric light it would change differently in a dramatic way. In daylight it would change again depending on the time of day.

Epson inks are still suffering of this to a degree even today. That is why I don't use them. Some third party suppliers are much better. Modern art paints, oils and acrylics are now very much better in this regard. This is why they are so expensive.

So what is the solution.
Firstly, if the paint of your pictures badly metameris (looks like they do) you need to decide how and where you want to display them and choose the lighting under which you photograph them accordingly and stick with it. If you just want to archive them choose the most appropriate light source.
Secondly, use a neutral grey card. You can buy one on line. Then set up your lighting and do a pilot shot (RAW please !) of the picture with the grey card in it (or part of the picture.) This is important. Then when you open the picture in your RAW converter click on the colour picker (pipette symbol) move it over the grey cart part of the picture and miraculously the picture will appear colour correct. Of course this will only be the case if your graphics card and monitor sing from the same song book, in other words everything is calibrated.

In case you print I suggest using a 3500K (Kelvin) lamp shining over the printer. I find this a good compromise. Don't use Fluorescent lights they usually have a high green content at the expense of all other colours. The above mentioned incandescent 3500K light has more or less a proper ratio of green to the other colours. It gives me best results for viewing what I print.

Hope this sheds some light on it. (bad pun)
08-05-2018, 12:26 AM - 1 Like   #15
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