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Old 10-02-2003, 04:23 PM   #1
Cynthia Houppert Cynthia Houppert is offline
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Photographing your artwork Part II of II

Hello Everyone,

As promised, here's Photographing your art work (Posted 9-24-03) which is actually "Rule #16 Taking Aim" excerpted from Art Gallery Safari: Bagging the Big One (c) 2003.


Cynthia Houppert

Some questions asked:

Wouldn't this cause a hot spot directly in the center of the painting?


The hotspot would need to be diffused. The flash has different settings from wide to telephoto that control the angle of light. When the settings are at wide-angle mode they are the equivalent of a 28mm lens, which gives about a seventy-percent degree angle of coverage.

The Safari Hunter can put white plastic bubbles over the flash and take that out to about 110 degrees angle of spread. As long as the camera is kept far enough away from the subject, there isn't a hot spot in the middle. Actually, with flash there is less of a problem with hot spots than there is with continuous lights. One can't shoot with a flash at the subject straight on because the light comes right back. The light must be positioned at an angle. The other way to go about it is with an umbrella.

With flash, there is a different way of metering. Most of the cameras have on-camera flash. This type of flash has a number of automatic modes as well as a manual setting. On manual, it just means full flash. There is a scale that indicates the distance from the flash to the subject, which f-stop should be used. Flash doesn't fluctuate like incandescent lights. After the Safari Hunter completes the set up, shoot a test roll. The flash will be the same every time. Once the setup is complete, with two flashes on a lightweight stand, after shooting a test roll, one could just set the object up and would know the perfect distance from the piece. This meter will also meter flash. Set the meter, fire the flash and the Safari Hunter will know exactly what f-stop to use. Flash meters start at about forty dollars.

Safari Hunters without extensive photographic experience may have noticed that when taking a meter reading that in order to match the needle or the Light Emitting Diode (LED), either the shutter speed or the f-stop can be turned in different combinations. They will match. There might be a question as to what f-stop and what shutter speed would be recommended. If say, f8 at a 30th of a second is the first exposure is given; the exact exposure will also be f11 at 15 or f5/6 at a 60th or f4 at 1/25. All of those would ultimately deliver the same exposure to the film.

In shooting precise work, the Safari Hunter wants the image of the Trophy as sharp as possible. Try using the f-stop for the lens that gives the maximum sharpness of the lens. For most lenses, it's somewhere in the middle.

If the camera lens goes anywhere from 2.8 to f16, the lens is going to be at its very sharpest edge to edge overall resolution in the f8 to f5/6 range. If there is some reason to use between f8 and f5/6, and the choice is either a 60th or a 30th of a second, the latter is preferred. Furthermore, the shutter speed determines how much vibration is recommended in the unit. When shooting on a tripod, even using a cable release, there's a certain amount of vibration when the shutter is tripped. The slower the shutters speed, the more likely that vibration will be represented in the overall resolution of the image.

Many professional cameras have a mirror lock up feature. Before the picture is taken, the mirror flips up out of the way. The mirror flipping up and down is what causes most of the vibration. If the Safari Hunter can flip the mirror up first and then trip the shutter, there is less vibration. Generally, shoot at 30th of a second. Fifteen is about the slowest to use with a 35mm camera, and somewhere in the f5/6, f8 range. At the wider apertures, with more f-numbers, the edges aren't sharp, only the center is sharp. That is fine for portraits, but not for photographing flat work. At the smaller apertures, there's a lot of overall sharpness.

As for the film, the Ektachrome 100 is a daylight film. It can get processed in two hours. Kodachrome is sent out and it takes anywhere from two to four days depending on what day you send in it. If it's sent in on a Thursday, it may not be back on Tuesday. If a deadline is closing in, shoot it on Ektachrome. Take it to the processor and ask for two-hour processing. When it comes back determine if it needs re-shooting. When it doubt, just bracket.

Photographing Three-Dimensional art

When photographing three-dimensional Trophies, using the lighting principles as far as exposure is concerned, take the seamless paper and stretch it out onto a table. Place the piece far enough away from the background, to keep the background out of focus and just focus on the piece itself. When shooting three-dimensional work, it's not as important to be exactly dead on and it may even work to the Safari Hunter's disadvantage.

It is a good idea to have it centered in the image frame and as tight as possible. There is a choice of background to put it on. Never put anything on a white background if there's a chance it's going to be projected. When slides are projected on a screen and a blank image comes up, the effect on the eyesight is bothersome. Plus there is no difference in the contrast between the piece and the background surrounding the piece.

Shooting Trophies with Dark Colors

In work using dark colors, the background should use a lighter gray. Creating a tonal separation between the piece and the background is important. In photographing three-dimensional work, do not light it evenly. If a three-dimensional object is evenly lit, with the same amount of light coming from either side, the work appears two-dimensional. There needs to be some modeling. Arrange the light from one direction on a forty-five degree angle. On the other side, just out of the picture, use a piece of Foamcore or a reflector to bounce some light back into the shadow side, just enough so you can see detail on the shadow side.

Shooting in Silhouette

The situation depends on the Trophy. If one had a piece and wanted to share the whole, but wanted it to have some volume, the light coming from one direction would fill in the shadow. The closer the fill card is held out to the piece, the more light will be kicked into that shadow. That is how the light is regulated, by moving in or out. That rule applies to daylight, continuous light, or flash. Once the light hits an object it is bouncing. Intensity varies with the distance from the bounced surface to the subject. That intensity is controllable. With one light coming from one direction, it is like the moon; the dark side is not seen. The photographic process tends to exaggerate contrast. Often, what looks good to the naked eye is exaggerated and is unattractive.

As far as making prints or reproductions, most of the time, the images are not for reproduction. They are only for the jury process. Depending on the size of the reproduction, it would have a bearing on the size of the original. In other words, if it were a postcard to announce a show, a good 35mm slide would suffice. If it was a reproduction going in a book, calendar or a poster, or anything larger, the Safari Hunter would probably want that formatted for 4 x 5. If the transparency is for reproduction, viewing on a light table, add a standard color scale in the bottom or the side of the picture. The color scale will be used as a reference by the laboratory making the color separations.

Technicians will compare their color scale against the one submitted with the photograph and adjust until it is correct. Otherwise, they will have to trust the fact that colors in the transparency are absolutely accurate. The same holds true with a photographic print made by a photographic lab. By having the color scale on the side, they would be able to adjust the color on the enlargement until it was only a generation away from the original. Of course, it looks terrible on a light table, but the Safari Hunter should always mask it off. Register marks (crossed lines in a circle), should be included with the color patches, to enable to printer to reassemble the color separations.

A normal lens is all that is needed for routine copying. A wide angle lens may be used when the art is large and the camera cannot be moved back enough to include all of the art in the view finder, since the wide-angle lens takes in more area in any position. The dangers of using an extreme wide angle (one wider than 28-mm for a 35-mm camera is distortion (bowing in the top and sides) called "barreling". Telephoto (long lens) is best for detailed close-ups of the work. It can enlarge an area without moving the camera closer to the art and running the risk of distortion and light interference. A 100-mm or 125-mm lens for a 35-mm should meet most needs.

This Chapter "Rule 16 Taking Aim" was excerpted from Art Gallery Safari: Bagging the Big One (c) 2003.
Director, Art Struck Gallery, Blue Ridge, GA, Faculty Member, Atlanta College of Art, Community Ed., and Author of "Art Gallery Safari: Bagging the Big One"
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