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I know that many of us have difficulty photographing our paintings. Since most of us prefer to spend our time painting rather than learning about photography, it would be great if we all shared our tips for making the process of photographing and posting our paintings on the internet as easy as possible.

 

I'll kick-start the process by sharing what I do. I have a fairly standard pocket-sized digital camera and a desk-top computer with an old CRT monitor (as opposed to the new LCD flat type). I also have a fairly cheap photo-editing software package (Paint Shop Pro by JASC), but you don't really need this to get started, as most digital cameras come with some basic photo-editing software anyway.

 

I usually photograph my paintings outside in the shade (under a porch or something similar). I place them on the ground and stand over them if they are small, or put them against a wall at a slight angle if larger. If you have a brightly lit room with good North light, you can do this indoors. Doing this eliminates glare from the sky and also reduces the blue "cast" that most digital cameras have (you can adjust the white balance on the most cameras too, but no need to go there!). I make sure to leave a margin around the painting, knowing that I can crop it later.

 

I then download the photo to my computer, and place the painting beside the monitor for comparison purposes. The first thing I do is to "crop" the picture so that it fills the screen. Then I adjust Colour and Brightness/Contrast as necessary so that the picture on the monitor is as close as possible to the original (if you photograph your paintings in the shade, colour adjustment is not really necessary, but you will usually need to give the photo a bit more punch by adjusting the brightness and contrast - most camera software nowadays has some capacity to do this). Finally, I resize the image to something around 150kB. You can post larger images here but they will take longer to upload.

 

It is worth remembering that even if you do all of the above, that only means the image looks correct on your monitor - you have no control over the calibration of viewers' monitors! So don't spend too long at it!

 

 

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Very good, Michael, I agree with all that especially the last sentence.

A problem I noticed with the oul cheap digital cameras was the curved edges of the painting as illustrated by sample A below:


I asked an expert about this and was advised that the distortion can be almost eliminated by moving back and using the zoom but only to the centre of you zoom setting. If your zoom goes up to 10x only zoom to 5x and bob's your uncle. See sample B below.


If all this fails get your brother to use his expertise http://www.paulfreeney.com
I never knew you lads could be (so) helpful.
If the mid-zoom doesn't fix the curved corners, Paint-Shop Pro or Photoshop will have a 'Lens Distortion' option under the 'Adjust' Tab. Choose 'Barrel' for convex distortion and 'Pincushion' for concave. Another very useful correction tool is Vertical and Horizontal Perspective. This is for where you have taken a photo at a slight angle and need to straighten up a slightly skewed rectangle. The Perspective correction is usually under the 'Effects' tab and select 'Geometric' from the drop-menu.
A small piece of white paper or card photographed beside your painting can be a useful guide when correcting colour in the computer later.
I do the same thing most of the time. I was at a talk once that was done by a professional photographer. He was talking about photographing your paintings. I haven't set up the things he described, but I keep thinking about it. It would have to be something I could put up, then take down again.

He said to put your painting on an easel, or something similar. Then put some kind of directional, clip-on lights on either side, on some sort of stands, so they each point at the opposite, far side of the painting. I hope that makes sense. He said it was good to have a neutral background that the painting was against. I have to admit that most of the time I just take them outside and photograph them there. I have no problem with my pastels, but the glare from the oils is a bit of a problem sometimes.

I am glad to hear about those ways to fix the distortion of the camera lens. I have a Mac, and am planning on getting Adobe Photoshop, and I don't have anything except iPhoto right now. Thank you.
Great advice
Do these set up options also eliminate shine ? I inevitably end up photographing pieces which are still wet, and walk around like a mad thing twisting and turning the canvas????
Also do you photograph your works before of after varnishing, as the same problem occurs?
Thanks
Firstly, Karen, just in case you're wondering, I don't spend the whole day on the internet, even if it looks that way sometimes!

Glare on a photo of a painting is usually caused by a reflection of the strongest light source (the sun if outdoors/window if indoors). If you stand directly over your painting outdoors, under a porch or other overhang, the sun/sky cannot do this, unless you have a lot of impasto passages. If your painting has a lot of impasto brushwork and hence has "planes" facing in multiple directions, you will inevitably catch some glare from the sun/sky - the best bet then is to photograph it on an overcast day.

Also, maybe you use a lot of linseed oil in whatever medium you use. I rarely use anything oilier than 50/50 oil/turps even for the finishing "top layer" brushwork, and the surface is rarely that shiny then even when still wet. With regard to varnishing, it is best to leave this for six months anyway, unless you just apply some retouching varnish here and there. I usually use a mix of matt and gloss varnish (approx 3:1), so it is almost a matt finish. But if you have more glossy varnished paintings you wish to photograph, I think the above suggestions should still work.

Hopefully, that's of some help.

Karen Scannell said:
Great advice
Do these set up options also eliminate shine ? I inevitably end up photographing pieces which are still wet, and walk around like a mad thing twisting and turning the canvas????
Also do you photograph your works before of after varnishing, as the same problem occurs?
Thanks
I usually photograph mine before I do a retouch varnish on them. The lights are supposed to keep the glare down, if you adjust them right. I haven't done it yet, but keep meaning to. Sometimes if I get too close to the paintings it makes the glare worse.

Karen Scannell said:
Great advice
Do these set up options also eliminate shine ? I inevitably end up photographing pieces which are still wet, and walk around like a mad thing twisting and turning the canvas????
Also do you photograph your works before of after varnishing, as the same problem occurs?
Thanks

Here is a good practical explanation of how to photograph your paintings to professional standard from Wouter Tulp: http://tulptorials.blogspot.nl/2012/12/dan-dos-santos-how-to-photog...

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