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Old 03-16-2005, 09:00 PM   #21
Garth Herrick Garth Herrick is offline
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Perfection with two lights is possible! Thanks Tom!

Originally Posted by Tom Edgerton

The key to eliminating the glare is to position the light farther out from the canvas and shallower than 45 degrees--the typical copy setup. Our lights were on a really shallow angle to the canvas, and very much out to the side, about 4-5 feet from the canvas. And instead of aiming the lights to the middle of the canvas, I'd aim them to the opposite edge, so the lights would cross in front of the canvas and mix in a softer, more even way. Meter the light with a hand-held meter at all corners, sides, and center of the canvas to make sure the light is even over the whole surface. A half-stop difference will show in the result, and your copy won't be evenly lit.

I too would like to thank you for your excellent tips for copywork. I have gotten better results than ever before just by reading your post.

I have two Lowel Totalites each with 750 watt halogen tubes. They spread light very evenly so two lights are just about sufficient. I set them up as you said, about five feet from the painting, at less than 45 degrees..... -closer to 40 degrees to the edge nearest the lights.

Here's where I got weird and experimental: You know how just two lights at each side left and right, will cause terribly distracting dark shadows just above and below the painting,...... Well I turned the painting to a 45 degree orientation on the wall (and the camera too) and voila!... no more (dark) distracting shadows!

Also I pushed your advice to aim the lights to the far side of the painting, to the outer limits. At first I pointed the two lights directly toward each other, head on. The painting was still slightly brighter lit on the side closest to the light. But I found that if I turned the lights away even another 15 degrees, suddenly each single light was more or less providing constant illumination accross the entire painting (according to the light meter in spot checks at each corner). With both lights running, perfection was guaranteed! It really made a difference in quality. Well it's almost perfect, it would be nice to be able to get the lights further away.

Now if I only had black walls....

Thanks again Tom! I got these ideas through you.

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Old 03-16-2005, 10:28 PM   #22
Elizabeth Schott Elizabeth Schott is offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Edgerton

Velvet's good of course, but anything that kills the reflection from the wall will work, if money's tight. Even with a lens hood, there's junk in the air between the lens and the painting. As you know, down here in the South, it's WATER!
(I'll see you or your twin in DC...)


What, no lights???

I'm not sure about the suggestion of shooting in full sun--I'd bet it will glare on varnish. But hey, try anything.

I used to hang my paintings on a nail on the shadow side of an outside storage shed and shoot without lights. Meter over the surface of the painting as described to make sure the light is even. The only drawback is that plants, sky, etc. will reflect in additional colors. Maybe you can correct for this in Photoshop.

Bart Lindstrom used to open the garage door when the sun was on the other side of the house, so the door was in shadow, and set up his easel just inside the door and shoot with ambient daylight. He may still do it for all I know. It would eliminate the reflection of light from a wall behind the painting. Duck down to make sure you're not casting your own shadow on the painting. Also worth a try.

Tom I am sure it was operator error... but when I did the garage door shooting, the metering of light was a mess, I think if I tired this again I would only do it with a hand held meter.

But then it would be my hand holding the meter, which would still be a problem!
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Old 03-21-2005, 05:25 PM   #23
Tom Edgerton Tom Edgerton is offline
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I shoot copy work with a couple of TotaLites too. Glad the suggestions sparked something. Also, thanks for posting your refinements of the method.


You gotta experiment. But to your point, I would imagine that trying to meter a number of points on the canvas with the reflective meter in the camera and a gray card would be incredibly cumbersome. You would almost always be metering into your own shadow--make sure you're not between the light source and your painting.

Folks, do yourself a favor. If you are going to do your own copy work, get a hand-held meter. They're not THAT expensive, and you can probably find one used. You'll pay yourself back by not having to have a professional lab shoot your paintings. If your setup is metering evenly across the canvas, you're 99 percent of the way home.

"The dream drives the action."
--Thomas Berry, 1999
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Old 06-23-2005, 01:28 AM   #24
Linda Brandon Linda Brandon is offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Edgerton
At least put a black cloth behind and around your painting as far out as you can; whatever is behind your painting will reflect into the lens--if it's a light color, it will "fog" and wash out your color--even with a lens hood. -TE
Hmmm. I shoot my paintings under a skylight in a bathtub "shower stall" (somewhere on the Forum I've posted a photo of this macabre system) and maybe the glossy white tiles reflecting back at me are the source of my current frustrations. I am running out to buy some black cloth.

Tom, you are a genius, if I haven't said so before.
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Old 08-03-2005, 08:09 AM   #25
Richard Budig Richard Budig is offline
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Sorry to come late to this thread, and I'm a newbie at photographing my art, but I wanted to pass on something I read (and tried with some success) somewhere in this forum. If I could find it quickly, I'd copy and paste it.

Basically, the advice was to shoot in full sun, but turn, or angle, your art away from the sun in such a way that the painting is bathed in full sunlight, but the distracting glare is gone. You stand square to your painting, and shoot.

As I said, I did okay with this method, and I believe one of it's "secrets" is that you are elilminating glare by turning slightly from the direct rays of the sun.

I can tell you from my days of dealing in diamonds, one of the topics that come up to which one pays a great deal of attention is something called the refractive index. It has to do with the angle at which any transparent medium becomes reflective. Inside this angle, you can see through the medium, but when you reach,or exceed, the refractive index angle, the medium becomes like a mirror.

This is evident when, for example, walking down a sidewalk, you glance up and see a window display in a store window. As you approach (thus changing your angle to the glass) the window suddenly becomes a mirror instead of transparent.

The gist of what I'm saying is that so long as your painting is in full light (sun or otherwise) and you are operating inside the angle of refractive index, you ought to be able to move you and your camera around until you eliminate the glare.

By the way (for you girls), it's the angle on the bottom half of the diamond that gives it most of it's sparkle. It's all refractive index stuff. If the angle is right, the bottom half of the diamong will reflect back to you all the light that enters the top. Likewise, the angles on the top half of the diamond are cut so as to allow light to enter, while the angles on the bottom half trap and reflect the light.
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