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Old 02-18-2006, 12:50 PM   #1
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Photographing your painting




There's a lot of good info on this site regarding the photographing of your art work. I've tried to incorporate as much of these good ideas as I can into my technique.

I don't use artificial light so I have to rely on sunlight. I think the best sunlight for this purpose is outside under an awning of some sort, away from any strong influencing colors (this can be a challenge). In the shoot below I used window light. I have a set of large windows which give good light in the morning when the sun is on the other side of the building. Even though there is a lot of light coming into the room the light is directional and will tend to pass over the canvas in varying degrees, much like it would while photographing your subjects. Even though, I can get pretty good results indoors.

One of the hardest things to accomplish is to get accurate color reproduction. To this end I have been using a gray card (you can see the card resting above the painting). Following the instructions for my Nikon D70, I capture the precise reflected light by using this 18% gray card. You can pick these cards up at a photography store for not much money. I have convinced myself that the difference between this white balance and any other preset WB settings is well worth the small effort. And it is a small effort. I can capture the setting in a matter of seconds.

Also, as you can see below, I have surrounded the canvas with some cheap black cloth. I just get a bigger canvas and drape the cloth over it then set the painting in front of it on the easel.

I think these two things, gray card white balance setting, and surrounding the painting with black, have given me the best shot at getting good color rendition. Of course there are other considerations like positioning yourself such that you omit glare and trying to stay plumb with the canvas.

I wouldn't argue against using a studio lighting setup for doing this work. I think a good artificial setup is probably best for this purpose, but for those like me who resist the artificials you might try this method.
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Old 02-20-2006, 11:25 AM   #2
Patricia Joyce Patricia Joyce is offline
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Thanks, Mike, I am taking notes! Nice painting by the way. It is has been a while since I have seen anything from you. How's your new studio in Florida?
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Old 02-20-2006, 11:50 AM   #3
Mischa Milosevic Mischa Milosevic is offline
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The photo of the youngster with ice cream, is something else. What a moment and you where there. It should be on billboards at every ice cream parlor. Thankx Mike.
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Old 02-20-2006, 12:36 PM   #4
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Thanks Patricia and Mischa,

I haven't tried using the artificial light set up, but I would think that it would be particularly important to get a good white balance measurement given that lights have such a variation in temperature. The grey card method should be a good fix for this. This should hold true for subjects as well. Taking this measurement gets a bit more combersome when you're on the fly and out of the confines of a studio space, but I find that it is worth it whenever you can manage it. .

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How's your new studio in Florida?
I have a nice space in my apartment. It's what they call here in Florida a lanai (probably other places as well). Some are only screened in but I opted for the fully enclosed variety.

The sketch is of my nephew. I've always wanted to try and do an oil sketch on raw linen. I've always liked the look of raw linen, so I took a standard primed Fredrix linen canvas and had it reversed. Then I applied Liquitex clear gesso and gave it a go.
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Old 02-20-2006, 01:22 PM   #5
Jean Kelly Jean Kelly is offline
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Hi Mike, I tried your method yesterday. I discovered that I had a whole bolt of black fabric, so set things up and did some practice shots. Maggie thought the display was for her, so I just ended up taking many shots of her preening for the camera and upstaging poor Tootsie.

Jean
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Old 02-20-2006, 08:08 PM   #6
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Jean:

That's a fine looking painting, and a fine looking cat.

Make sure you fill your frame with nothing but the painting, and black, from border to border. I think this will get the best results.

When I tested the difference between auto WB and the results using the precise reflected light, or "preset" WB of the gray card, the difference seemed more pronounced in the rendition of the reds. They appeared to be more true to the painting. At least thats what stuck out to me.
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Old 02-21-2006, 12:34 AM   #7
Jean Kelly Jean Kelly is offline
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Thanks Mike. I guess it's time to use the grey card, accurate reds are the hardest for me to photograph. Even though I have the capability on my camera to do it, I never have. I've decided to hold off for a while on my D50 purchase, it will happen, just a little bit later than I hoped. I love the shot with the ice cream cone.

So you are using clear gesso, I like that look also.

Jean
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Old 02-21-2006, 09:37 PM   #8
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Quote:
So you are using clear gesso, I like that look also.
Yep, Liquitex brand.
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Old 02-21-2006, 11:01 PM   #9
Terri Ficenec Terri Ficenec is offline
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Hey Mike -- good to see you posting again! This topic couldn't have come up at a better time! I've been struggling to get a decent picture of a recent painting. . . So far the best I've got is taken with artificial 'daylight' bulbs and some of the colors just look off even though I've custom set the white balance. . . I'm wanting to retry with natural light :-) I'm wondering in the picture of your set-up it looks like the windows are off to the left and the work is angled so that it's back is slightly toward the window? If I'm interpreting this right is this is to avoid glare?
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Old 02-22-2006, 02:33 PM   #10
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Quote:
If I'm interpreting this right is this is to avoid glare?
Yes, that's right. If you set your painting directly facing the window you will see glare. The problem is that when you do as I have done above you get the light passing across the canvas and can get one side lighter than the other. You have to play with it to get the best situation. I suppose you could reflect some light back onto the painting the way you would your model. As long as you take your preset WB after you get yourself situated you should be OK.

Good luck Terri
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